DAY 7: The search for the three kidnapped Israeli teens

IDF arrests 30 Hamas men throughout West Bank

On 7th day of Operation Brother’s Keeper, military expands crackdown on terror group in search for kidnapped teenagers

The IDF 931 Nahal Brigade during search patrols in the Balata refugee camp, near Nablus in the West Bank, on June 18, 2014 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
The IDF 931 Nahal Brigade during search patrols in the Balata refugee camp, near Nablus in the West Bank, on June 18, 2014 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

The IDF arrested 30 Hamas men across the West Bank early Thursday, as part of its ongoing large-scale operation to find the three Israeli teenagers — Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach — who were kidnapped last Thursday.

“Overnight, IDF forces searched approximately 100 locations and carried out approximately 10 operations against ‘Dawa’ institutions — the civilian lifeline used by Hamas to recruit, disseminate information and enable cash flow,” the IDF said in a statement.

“During an operational activity in Jenin, a violent riot erupted, during which Palestinians hurled IEDs and opened fire at the forces. The forces responded with live fire, identifying hits. In addition, an IED and rocks were hurled at forces exiting Nablus. The forces detained several rioters,” the statement said.

Operation Brother’s Keeper to locate the three marked one week since they went missing from a hitchhiking post in the Gush Etzion area near Hebron on Thursday night.

Israeli forces have embarked on a massive campaign to locate the boys and kidnappers while simultaneously destroying parts of the Hamas terror infrastructure in the West Bank.

The military has been conducting nightly raids and sweeps in cities across the West Bank since the teenagers disappeared, arresting more than 250 suspected terrorists, many of them Hamas men, since last week.

Fifty of them, all Palestinians who were released in the prisoner exchange deal Israel signed with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, were arrested overnight Tuesday.

The military has indicated that it will continue the campaign to find three abducted teens and root out terrorists from the West Bank “at full force,” an Israeli military spokesperson said Wednesday, as officials said they were ready to ramp up a crackdown on Hamas.

Early Thursday morning, the Israeli Air Force launched a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, hitting five Hamas positions in the Palestinian enclave.

The strikes which came in response to a rocket attack on Wednesday that struck a home in a kibbutz in the Sha’ar HaNegev region outside Gaza.

The US on Wednesday called on both Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint as Israelis tightened their grip on the West Bank in the effort to look for the teens.

“We recognize this is an incredibly sensitive and difficult circumstance on the ground, and we feel all sides should exercise restraint,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

Earlier Wednesday, IDF soldiers thwarted an attempted hit-and-run attack near Bethlehem.

The troops opened fire at the car, and were said to detect a hit. No soldiers were reported injured in the incident.

Also on Wednesday, the parents of three teens got their first listen to a tape of one of the students reporting the abduction, in an emotional meeting with defense officials.

The recording of the phone call, made by one of the teens soon after the kidnap last Thursday night to a police hotline in Kiryat Arba, had been kept under wraps; Israeli authorities have acknowledged an apparent operational failure that led to the call not being immediately passed along to the army. Police Commander Yohanan Danino announced Tuesday he would appoint a special committee to examine the failure.

During the meeting, the parents were also updated on military efforts to locate their sons in a massive West Bank operation, with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warning of long hours of uncertainty ahead.

Meeting with the parents Wednesday, Ya’alon praised them for their steadfastness and strength, pledging to stand by them and urging them to exercise patience and restraint.

The parents also met with high-level representatives from the IDF.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch met on Wednesday with students and teachers at the Mekor Haim Yeshiva in Gush Etzion, at which the kidnapped boys studied.

Aharonovitch updated the students and teachers on recent developments in the efforts to locate their peers and fielded questions from them.

“They asked genuine and painful questions,” the minister said following the meeting. “They are worried, but full of hope and faith.”

During his talk, Aharonovitch addressed the criticism hurled at the police for its mishandling of the phoned-in report of the kidnapping.

“The subject of the criticism is justified, naturally,” he said. “We must look into the matter and draw conclusions. I heard the tape, it’s very difficult to understand, but one of these days it will be made public. If there were mishaps, they will be investigated.”

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