Israeli troops will continue their campaign to find three abducted teens and root out terrorists from the West Bank “at full force,” an Israeli military spokesperson said Wednesday, as officials indicated they were ready to ramp up a crackdown on the Hamas organization.
In a special briefing in the West Bank, Moti Almoz said that the higher echelons of the military were in the process of approving additional operations to locate Naftali Frankel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19, as well as their captors, thought to be tied to Hamas.
“The military operations are continuing at full force,” he said.
The teens were last seen in Gush Etzion on Thursday night, and are said by Israel to have been kidnapped by Hamas. Israeli forces have been engaged in a widespread operation against Hamas in the West Bank since their disappearance.
Almoz said the new operations were to be carried out overnight Wednesday, adding that the IDF soldiers deployed to the area were “highly motivated” to see the army’s rescue efforts through.
“I saw the faces of the soldiers and the commanders,” Almoz said. “Faces that reflect a high degree of motivation, determination, and a will to carry out the mission.”
He said that in the past six days, the IDF had arrested 250 suspected terrorists. Fifty of them, all Palestinians who were released in the prisoner exchange deal Israel signed with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, were arrested overnight Tuesday.
“They are all being interrogated now,” Almoz said.
An Israeli official said Wednesday night that the arrested men had not fulfilled the conditions of their release, which called for them to desist from terror, and they could be returned to prison to finish out their sentences if found guilty in a military court.
The Shin Bet security service, which is taking part in the operation, was given the go-ahead to treat the operation as a “ticking time bomb” situation and use more intensive interrogation methods, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.
However, military officials later denied the report, according to Israel Radio.
Almoz said that so far, the military had seized bombs and weapons “night and day, in the entire area, in the streets, crevices, alleyways and casbahs – in every corner of the West Bank.”
He added that the operations would go on “unhampered” by time and resource constraints.
“The entire army is doing all it can to bring the boys back home,” Almoz said.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report