Defense officials vowed Tuesday to level a heavy blow at Hamas, but warned that the operation to track down the kidnapped teens was unlikely to end in the near future.
“Hamas in Judea and Samaria will pay a heavy price for the kidnapping,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday night, using a historical name for the West Bank. “We will get our hands on the kidnappers, and know how to get to the Hamas heads, any time, any place.”
Ya’alon urged the public to be patient due to the complicated nature of the mission. “Our main effort is getting to the kidnappers and kidnapped, and we will not rest until we do,” the defense minister said.
“We don’t intend to compromise the security of Israeli citizens, and will act with determination, responsibly and judiciously,” he said.
Ya’alon’s remarks came a day before the defense minister was scheduled to meet with the families of the kidnapped teens at his office in Tel Aviv, Israel Radio reported.
Gen. Nitzan Alon, head of the IDF’s Central Command, made similar remarks Tuesday during a press conference at the site in the West Bank where the kidnapping took place.
“The Hamas leaders feel the blow and get the message,” Alon said. “They will emerge from this campaign weakened on an operational and strategic level.”
Israeli forces have embarked on a widespread crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank since the Thursday kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16 and Naftali Frankel, 16.
Some 200 members of the Islamist group, including senior officials, have been arrested and over 800 homes have been searched in the large operation that has focused on the Hebron area, according to the army.
Israeli officials have blamed Hamas for the abduction, although the group has denied involvement, and on Tuesday said the crackdown was “politically motivated.”
Alon called the IDF operation “complex and ongoing.”
“It did not begin today and it will not end anytime soon.”
The general spoke directly to the Frankel, Shaar, and Yifrach families and pledged the IDF “will do everything possible to bring your boys home safely.”
An unnamed senior defense official told Channel 2 the operation would not be curbed in light of the upcoming Ramadan holiday, which begins around the evening of June 27.
However, he added that the military campaign might end before that.
Yifrach, Shaar and Frankel were abducted south of Jerusalem on Thursday night.