Palestinian FM: Israel overreacting on missing teens

‘If Netanyahu has any evidence’ that Hamas is behind the kidnapping, ‘he has to put it on the table’

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

PARIS — Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on Friday accused Israel of overreacting in its response to three missing teenagers and said it had yet to prove Hamas was behind their disappearance.

But Maliki said if it is shown that the Islamist movement abducted the teens, that would threaten the Palestinian unity government formed this month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses Hamas of last week’s abduction of the two 16-year-olds and a 19-year-old from a hitch-hiking stop in the West Bank.

Israel has launched a massive military operation to hunt for the teens, arresting 330 Palestinians, most of them with ties to Hamas, and searching more than 1,000 locations.

Hamas dismissed the allegation it abducted the teens as “stupid” and Malki said Netanyahu had no right to make the claim without proof.

“He cannot keep blaming one side without showing evidence. When you go to court if you don’t show evidence you lose your case,” Maliki told AFP on the sidelines of a conference at the French Senate in Paris.

“Three kids have disappeared, but in exchange for that the Israeli army has taken 300 Palestinians… they have destroyed more than 150 Palestinian homes since last week,” he said. The IDF has said hundreds of buildings were lightly damaged in the searches, which have focused on finding potential hiding places in the sprawling cities of the West Bank.

“Their reaction went beyond logic and what infuriates me the most is the lack of reaction from the international community.”

He described Israel’s reaction as “exaggerated” and suggested it may be “dragging” on the search for political purposes.

Israel has seized on the opportunity to drive a wedge between Hamas and the Palestinian leadership, whose formation of a merged government brought the West Bank and Gaza Strip under joint administration for the first time in seven years, though Hamas has said it would not give up its separate armed force or de facto rule of the Gaza Strip.

“If it comes to be known that Hamas is behind it (the kidnapping), then of course the unity government will be at risk. We are not going to tolerate and accept the fact that Hamas uses and abuses this kind of reconciliation government just to blow the national interests of the Palestinian people,” Maliki said.

“But if Netanyahu has any evidence, he has to put it on the table.”

A 14-year-old boy was killed on Friday and three other Palestinians wounded from IDF fire in clashes sparked by the military operation. One IDF soldier was lightly wounded from a grenade thrown at the troops.

“We are not going to be dragged into a confrontation. We will refrain, we will prevent people from reacting to Israeli escalating military confrontation,” Maliki said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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