Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman lashed out at hundreds of mainly Israeli Arab protesters who demonstrated Friday against the IDF’s ongoing operation in the West Bank aimed at locating three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped two weeks ago, calling them “terrorists.”
Some of the protesters called for the abduction of soldiers, Channel 2 reported.
“We must treat them like terrorists in every sense of the word,” said Liberman in a statement Friday.
The foreign minister added that he would consult with Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch to open a criminal investigation that would lead to the arrest of the “inciters.” He said that government ministers on Sunday would discuss what he called the radicalization of the Israeli-Arab leadership in Israel.
The protesters blocked a major highway near the northern Arab-Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm and hundreds more rallied off the road beside them, in protest of Operation Brother’s Keeper on Friday.
The demonstrators were also protesting Israel’s use of administrative detention, or holding security prisoners without trial, after arresting Palestinians in the West Bank. A number hurled stones at police officers.
Channel 2 added that the city’s mayor’s office issued a condemnation of the protest, saying those demonstrating were not residents of Umm al-Fahm, but persons bused in from all over the country to tarnish the city’s name.
Five demonstrators suffered minor injuries throughout the protest and were rushed to a nearby facility for medical treatment, Ynet reported. Two policemen were also reported hurt.
Police cleared the highway from protesters a short while later and several were arrested, Israel Radio reported.
On Thursday, Israeli authorities named two West Bank Palestinians as prime suspects in the June 12 kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers. The two alleged abductors, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, are both known Hamas members. They are alleged to have been in the car in which Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel were abducted.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the kidnapping, though the Islamist group has denied involvement. Thousands of Israeli troops have searched hundreds of locations in the West Bank and arrested some 400 Palestinians, many from Hamas, including some who were freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange for Hamas-kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
In recent days, search efforts have focused on an area north of Hebron, where some 1,500 soldiers have been deployed. Some areas are now being searched for the third and fourth time.