Israel will seek to deal a crushing blow to Hamas’s West Bank infrastructure following the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, Army Radio reported on Monday.
Plans to move against the Islamist movement were discussed at a meeting of the security cabinet convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at which ministers discussed punitive steps against Hamas which Israel has blamed for the kidnapping of three teenagers, media reports said.
Following the meeting, which lasted around 90 minutes, political sources said Israel would “attempt, in the coming hours and days, to try and overthrow Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank,” the radio’s political correspondent reported.
There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s office.
Israel is in the throes of a massive manhunt to find the three youths who disappeared on Thursday evening from a hitchhiking stop in the southern West Bank. So far, more than 150 Palestinians have been arrested, among them senior Hamas leaders and MPs as well as activists.
But opposition leader Isaac Herzog said the Palestinians had been helping efforts to find the missing teens, warning that any major move could escalate the situation in the already tense West Bank.
“It is clear now that the security coordination and Palestinian efforts to help locate the children are very important,” he told Army Radio.
“The war on terror will never end, it is vital. But in parallel, we must take all the necessary steps to calm the situation in the West Bank.”
Reports published earlier on Monday said ministers would look into the possibility of banishing senior Hamas members to Gaza.
“One of the steps being considered is the possibility of expelling senior Hamas members from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip as well as destroying their homes,” the Walla news website said, quoting unnamed senior sources.
A senior official quoted by Haaretz said the Justice Ministry had on Sunday looked into the legalities of expelling Hamas members to Gaza. The meeting was attended by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and other ministry officials, it said.
The discussion was to “explore whether such steps were in line with international law and would stand up to challenges in the High Court,” Haaretz said, indicating that no decision had yet been taken.
As well as deportation to Gaza and demolishing the homes of senior Hamas members, Israel was also weighing sanctions against Hamas prisoners in Israel jails, it said.