Israeli forces arrested over 40 Hamas operatives in the West Bank, including a senior Palestinian lawmaker, as a search for three missing Israeli teens and crackdown on the Islamist group continued overnight Sunday.
Among the Hamas members rounded up by the IDF overnight was Aziz Dweik, Hamas’s speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who was taken into custody at his home in Hebron, according to Palestinian and Israeli media reports.
The raids followed a similar sweep the night earlier in which over 80 Palestinians, including a number of senior Hamas officials, were taken into Israeli custody.
Over 150 Palestinian suspects have been arrested in the wake of the kidnapping of the three youths on Thursday night, the IDF said in a statement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Hamas for the kidnapping of the three, Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel. Hamas has denied being behind the disappearance, but praised the abduction.
According to an Israel Radio report, the IDF conducted arrests in the areas of Jenin, Ramallah and Hebron late Sunday and early Monday. Amid the arrests, Palestinians sources told AFP that Israeli forces shot and killed a 19-year-old Palestinian in the Jelazoun refugee camp near Ramallah early Monday.
“IDF efforts are focused on enabling operational capabilities, enhancing intelligence and influencing those that participated, are involved or have knowledge of the whereabouts of Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach,” army spokesman Peter Lerner said.
A senior IDF official said military energy was concentrated on cracking down on Hamas.
“We’re facing forward toward increasing activity against Hamas,” the official was quoted by the Ynet news site saying.
Israel significantly increased its security presence in Hebron on Sunday afternoon as a closure was imposed on the city, where the IDF has concentrated its efforts to hunt down those responsible for the kidnapping.
On Sunday night, IDF troops converged on a house in the largely Palestinian city and arrested two men wanted in connection with the kidnapping.
According to Palestinian sources, the IDF launched a missile at the building, causing a large explosion. A conflicting report said that the explosion occurred when soldiers detonated an explosives charge outside the door of the house.
At least one Palestinian was injured in the blast, reports said.