DAY 9: The search for the three kidnapped Israeli teens

Hamas vows revenge for IDF West Bank operation

Spokesman says movement’s popularity will only grow as result of Israel’s military raids, arrests in search for kidnapped teens

Israeli soldiers patrol the streets near a mosque during an operation in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 17, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Moma)
Israeli soldiers patrol the streets near a mosque during an operation in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 17, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Moma)

A senior Hamas official vowed Saturday that the terror group would respond to Israel’s military operation in the West Bank — Operation Brother’s Keeper — which aims to locate three kidnapped Israeli teenagers while simultaneously harming Hamas’s terror infrastructure in the West Bank.

Since the disappearance Thursday, June 12, of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, thousands of Israeli troops have searched hundreds of locations in the West Bank and arrested more than 300 Palestinians, many from Hamas, including some who were freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange for Hamas-kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

“This [operation] will not break Hamas. Hamas is too strong a movement for this [operation] to break it. Our popularity will only increase,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, according to Channel 10.

The Hamas official’s remarks came a day after Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) on Friday listed one of Israel’s goals in the IDF operation as seeking to “break Hamas.”

“We will have our revenge. Hamas has proven that it has the capabilities to respond [to Israel’s military operation],” Abu Zuhri promised.

The Israeli government has pointed the finger for the abduction at the terror group and said it holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the fate of the teenagers. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday criticized the kidnapping, said the youths must be returned, and confirmed ongoing security cooperation with Israel to try to locate them.

On Thursday, an Israeli official named a deported Hamas terror chief, Saleh al-Arouri, as a suspect in orchestrating the kidnapping.

Hamas has praised the kidnapping without claiming responsibility, and slammed Abbas for siding with Israel.

Abu Zuhri also dismissed a statement by Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki Friday which threatened Hamas with “drastic decisions” should it be found that the terror group was behind the kidnapping. Maliki said it would be a “blow to the reconciliation process.”

“Maliki does not reflect the opinions of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah or of Hamas and Fatah. His remarks pander to Israel and the Europeans,” Abu Zuheiri said.

A top Hamas official on Saturday also dismissed threats to end the unity government between Fatah and Hamas.

“The unity of the Palestinian people and the end of the division are top priorities and there’s no going back [on the unity agreement],” said Moussa Abu Marzouk.

The two Palestinian factions swore in a unity government on June 2 — 10 days before the abduction of the teenagers from a hitchhiking post in the Gush Ezion area in the West Bank.

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