Tourism Minister Uzi Landau accused the US government Sunday of contributing to a rise in the number of terror attacks against Israeli citizens by recognizing the Hamas-Fatah unity government headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Speaking at a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) said the kidnapping Thursday night of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank was a direct result of the formation of the new Palestinian government.
“Unfortunately, with the establishment of the Abbas-Hamas government, we warned of the harm the Israeli public may suffer, and unfortunately our predictions were confirmed,” Landau said. “This act reveals the true face of the terror government led by Mahmoud Abbas.”
“The willingness of the US administration to effectively recognize the Abbas-Hamas government causes damage to the security of Israel’s citizens and encourages terror,” Landaus’s office said in a statement Sunday.
Landau further urged the international community at large to refrain from offering any legitimacy to the Palestinian unity government.
On Thursday night, yeshiva students Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, were abducted while hitchhiking south of Jerusalem. A wide-ranging manhunt is underway in the West Bank to locate the three.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that the Palestinian terror group Hamas was behind the kidnapping.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the prime minister’s accusation was “stupid,” and “designed to break Hamas,” according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency. Abu Zuhri added that the tactic would not succeed, and that Israeli measures in the West Bank — including the wave of arrests — only indicated the IDF’s “state of confusion” with regard to the kidnapping.
Overnight Saturday, the IDF arrested 80 Palestinians, including senior members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as security forces continued to search for information regarding the whereabouts of the students.
Among those arrested was Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of Hamas, along with former ministers and members of the Palestinian parliament, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.
An IDF spokesperson confirmed to The Times of Israel that it believed Hamas was behind the kidnappings.
“According to our current evidence we know that Hamas is responsible for the abduction,” the spokesperson said.
Hamas hailed the “success” of the abduction on Saturday, but a senior official of the group denied that the terror group had any involvement in or knowledge of the incident.
Two little-known Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for the kidnapping on Friday, but it was unclear whether either claim had any credibility.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.