DAY 14: The search for the three kidnapped Israeli teens

IDF arrests 10 Palestinians in West Bank crackdown

As operation to locate kidnapped teens marks two weeks, military makes fresh sweeps

Israeli soldiers patrol in the village of Beit Kahil near the West Bank city of Hebron on June 21, 2014. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Israeli soldiers patrol in the village of Beit Kahil near the West Bank city of Hebron on June 21, 2014. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

The IDF arrested 10 Palestinians overnight Wednesday-Thursday and searched 136 locations as part of the ongoing crackdown in the West Bank to locate three kidnapped Israeli teenagers.

Thursday marked two weeks since the abduction of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar from a hitchhiking post in the Gush Etzion area on June 12.

Most of the arrests took place in and around Hebron, which has been the focus of search efforts for the three.

One suspect who tried to flee was shot and seriously injured in a village near the West Bank city, the army said. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Since Operation Brother’s Keeper was launched to locate the trio, the IDF has arrested around 400 Palestinians in the West Bank, most of them members of the Hamas movement, and has searched over 1,500 locations in the territory.

The military has been operating nightly in the West Bank, launching raids and arrest sweeps in an effort to search for the teens while simultaneously aiming to destroy Hamas’ infrastructure.

On Wednesday evening, the security cabinet decided to continue the ongoing operation, a day after the cabinet voted to begin to scale back activities in the West Bank.

The forum also voted Wednesday to weigh a number of measures to counter the transfer of funds from the Palestinian Authority to Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Israel said the PA transfers generous monthly stipends and releases grants of up to $25,000 to incarcerated prisoners, thereby “giving a strong financial incentive to terrorism, including through the misuse of fungible foreign financial assistance.”

The Israeli government charged that the salaries to prisoners were calculated as a function of the number of years spent in prison, which means that “in effect that the terrorists who carried out the most horrific attacks receive the highest salaries.”

Given how reliant the Palestinian Authority is on foreign aid, “the international community should expresses its outrage at this abuse of foreign assistance that is donated primarily for the proper management of PA institutions and for promoting peaceful coexistence with Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

On Tuesday, 63 Palestinian prisoners suspended the hunger strike they observed in Israeli jails since late April.

The prisoners began refusing food on April 24 in protest of a policy that allows them to be held without charge or trial under a controversial procedure called administrative detention, which can be indefinitely extended for years.

Overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, the IDF arrested 17 Palestinians overnight as part of the ongoing crackdown, even as troops began to downscale their operations in the territory.

According to Israeli media reports, among those arrested overnight were two Palestinian lawmakers, Ibrahim Tayyub and Khaled Dweik. The Palestinian Ma’an news agency identified the Palestinian MPs as Khaled Tafesh and Anwar Zaboun.

The identities of those arrested could not be independently confirmed.

Israeli forces also found and confiscated weapons in a Palestinian refugee camp near Jenin, the Ynet news site reported.

On Tuesday, Israel’s cabinet voted to begin to scale back operations in the West Bank as military officials admitted the campaign against Hamas was drawing to a close in its present form.

A large part of the operation against Hamas has been exhausted,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said, while adding that it was a matter of time until three kidnapped teens were found.

IDF chief Benny Gantz said concern was growing for the fate of the three as time passed. “With the passing of time, fears grow,” he said.

An Israeli spokesman acknowledged to The Times of Israel on Tuesday that there had been no breakthrough in the hunt for the trio.

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