After 18 days of searches, the hunt for three kidnapped Israeli teens appeared to be reaching its conclusion on Monday evening. Censorship restrictions prevented the immediate publication of further details.
The security cabinet was set to convene in emergency session at 9:30 p.m., as the IDF increased its presence in Halhul, north of Hebron, in the operation to find the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. Israeli civilian volunteers had also been participating in the search Monday. Hundreds of troops were deployed in an open area just outside Halhul.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said dramatic developments had taken place in the case.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior officials were meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office. Knesset sessions on Monday evening were canceled.
Channel 2 news reported that “it seems as though we are reaching the conclusion of this episode.”
Clashes were reported between Palestinian and the IDF in Halhul. Several Palestinian protesters hurled stones and other objects at the soldiers. IDF forces have been searching repeatedly in the area since the three teenagers were abducted on June 12.
Since the start of Operation Brother’s Keeper to rescue Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, over 400 Palestinians have been arrested, a majority of them members of Hamas.
Israeli authorities on Thursday named two Hamas members as prime suspects in the kidnapping.
The two, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, have been missing from their homes in Hebron’s Hares neighborhood ever since the kidnapping took place on the night of June 12 and are still at large. The two are suspected of having abducted the Israeli teens from a hitchhiking post near the settlement of Alon Shvut, in the Etzion Bloc, south of Jerusalem.
Hamas officials in Hebron confirmed the two suspects were members, and said Israeli troops have targeted the men’s homes since the beginning of Operation Brother’s Keeper. The officials said troops had entered the homes several times, conducting intense searches and confiscating items as evidence.