Hamas officials denied involvement in the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and said the sweeping crackdown on the group in the West Bank would not “break” the group, in two separate statements Tuesday.
In the Gaza Strip, Ismail Radwan denied the group’s involvement in the Thursday abduction of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16 and Naftali Frankel, 16, but said that on principle it reserves the right to kidnap Israelis to secure the release of its fighters from Israeli detention.
A second statement, released on behalf of the group’s office in Hebron, where the search for the teens has been focused, declared that the organization would not capitulate to Israeli pressure and the numerous arrests of its members. “You will not break us,” it said.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the kidnapping and has carried out dozens of raids in the West Bank against the group, arresting some 200 members of the past five days.
“We’ve been through attacks like these by Israel in the past, but we withstood them,” the Hebron statement said, according to Channel 10. “The Hamas movement is not a movement of dozens, hundreds, or thousands, but is an entire stream. The arrest of hundreds of our sons won’t stop us, won’t change our path, and won’t separate us from our commitments and obligations to the Palestinian nation.”
The Hebron statement also urged Palestinians to continue efforts to free the hunger-striking administrative detainees in Israel, and called on the Palestinian Authority to release all the Hamas political prisoners in its custody.
“We call on all factions to unite and stand against the Zionist attack and maintain cohesion,” it said.
The statements came hours after the security cabinet announced it would worsen conditions for about a thousand Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons.
The three teenagers were kidnapped last Thursday night in the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas was behind the abduction, allegations denied by the Gaza-based terror group’s spokesman.
Raphael Ahren and AFP contributed to this report.