In its continuing West Bank sweep for three kidnapped Israeli teens, the IDF arrested two Palestinians in a village south of Bethlehem.
The two men were from the village of Bet Fajar. Their arrest Saturday night raised the number of Palestinians arrested by the IDF on terror charges over the previous 24 hours to 20. Since the start of Operation Brother’s Keeper to rescue the Israeli teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, over 400 Palestinians have been arrested, a majority of them members of Hamas.
At least 18 West Bank Palestinians were arrested early Saturday as IDF soldiers searched 64 homes in the Hebron area. But military sources said Saturday they had still made no breakthrough in tracking down the abducted trio or their kidnappers.
A rally for the abducted teens is planned for Sunday night in Tel Aviv to highlight their plight. The rally’s title will be “Singing Together for Their Return.” President-elect Reuven Rivlin is expected to be among those addressing the gathering.
Israeli intelligence officials were quoted at the weekend saying that they anticipated the search for the three could be very protracted, and that it was clear the kidnappers had prepared carefully ahead of carrying out the abduction.
Fraenkel, Shaar and Yifrach were abducted from a West Bank bus stop on June 12, launching a massive manhunt by Israeli forces and intelligence agencies focused on the Hebron area. Israel has said Hamas was responsible for the abduction and named two Hebron-area Hamas operatives missing since the day of the kidnapping as the perpetrators. Hamas has denied responsibility.
On Saturday, the European Union condemned the escalating violence between Israel and Palestinian groups and urged the Israeli government “to use proportionate means only” to find the kidnapped teens.
“The EU reiterates its condemnation of the recent abduction of three Israeli students in the West Bank and calls once again for their immediate release and safe return to their families,” read the statement, issued by the European Union’s press office in Brussels.
The union “regrets the violence which has erupted in the West Bank as a result of the abduction, in particular the killing of several Palestinians, and calls on Israel to use proportionate means only to bring about the return of the abductees,” it said.
Five Palestinians were killed in clashes in the West Bank connected to the ongoing IDF operation.