As the hunt for three teens kidnapped in the West Bank continued for a third day Sunday, Israeli initiated a series of security measures designed to simultaneously aid the search and put pressure on the Palestinians.
In Hebron, south of where Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, were kidnapped late Thursday night, Israeli forces initiated a full closure of the area.
A Palestinian source told Ynet News that the city was “surrounded” by Israeli forces, and no one was able to enter or exit.
The crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel were also closed, and the government issued a general cancellation of visits to Palestinian prisoners who are serving in Israeli jails.
In addition, a proposal which was to have provided work permits in Israel for some 5,000 West Bank Palestinian construction workers was frozen, and entry was forbidden to many West Bank settlements for Palestinians who work there.
“Closing the settlements [to Palestinian laborers] is meant as leverage to pressure the population of the Palestinian Authority to not cover up the kidnapping and to create pressure to turn in the kidnappers and return the boys home safely,” the Yesha Council – the umbrella organization of West Bank settlements – said in a message to settlement leaders.
The moves came as Israeli forces carried out sweeping raids across the West Bank overnight Saturday, arrested some 80 wanted Palestinians, including a number of senior Hamas members.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the military would not rest until the three teens were returned home.
“The IDF and general intelligence services were engaged in a complex and wide-ranging effort. This complex task demands from all of us patience, steadfastness, responsibility and discretion,” he wrote on Twitter.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the unity pact between Hamas and Fatah for the allowing the kidnapping, saying terror groups like Hamas were working to harm Israelis.
A Hamas spokesman praised the kidnapping but said his group was not involved.
The three teens were kidnapped late Thursday night in the West Bank near the Alon Shvut settlement, leading to a massive manhunt.
Ya’alon said Saturday that the IDF is operating under the assumption that the three are still alive.
Netanyahu is expected to hold an emergency security cabinet meeting Sunday morning to discuss the situation.