Israel’s government decided Tuesday to worsen the conditions for about a thousand Hamas members serving time in Israel prisons in a bid to increase pressure on the terror group to release the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said.
The manhunt for Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Frankel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and their abductors entered a fifth day Tuesday and Jerusalem has been seeking additional measures to clamp down on Hamas both military and diplomatically.
Aside from a sweeping campaign of arrests across the West Bank, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has also now been authorized to worsen the conditions for Hamas members in Israeli prisons.
On Sunday, Jerusalem decided to cancel visits for Palestinian prisoners, one of a number of measures aimed at placing pressure on the Palestinians.
Some 200 members of the organization have been arrested over the last five days.
An Israel Prison Service spokesperson said the measure would apply to approximately a thousand prisoners, but did not say what additional measures would now be imposed on Hamas prisoners.
Jerusalem will consider additional steps to hurt the terror group at another meeting of the security cabinet, but no date has been set yet for the debate.
While the IDF will continue its manhunt on the ground, the Israeli government is launching a diplomatic effort aimed at delegitimizing the Palestinian unity government in the eyes of the international community, the sources added.
“We still see incitement in official media and educational institution of the Palestinian Authority, including calls for and glorification of terror attacks and kidnappings,” the sources said, adding that Israel still holds Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the fate of the abducted Israeli teenagers.
However, officials have said that security coordination with PA forces in the manhunt has been constructive, and officials in Ramallah have signaled Hamas involvement could place a unity pact with Fatah at risk.
The three teenagers were kidnapped last Thursday night in the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas was behind the abduction, allegations denied by the Gaza-based terror group’s spokesman.