Palestinian speaker held as Israel hunts teens

Israeli soldiers inspect the phone content of a Palestinian youth in the West Bank town of Hebron on Monday

Israeli soldiers inspect the phone content of a Palestinian youth in the West Bank town of Hebron on Monday

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israeli troops arrested Palestinian parliament speaker and Hamas member Aziz Dweik overnight during a wave of arrests linked to a massive manhunt for three kidnapped teenagers, the military said on Monday.

In a statement, the army said it had arrested more than 40 suspects in the West Bank, “including Hamas leadership and operatives,” with a military spokeswoman confirming to AFP that the speaker was among them.

The army says more than 150 Palestinians have been arrested in the search for the three youngsters who were snatched from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the southern West Bank on Thursday night, with Israel pointing the finger at Hamas.

So far, there has been no formal claim of responsibility.

Amani Sarahna, spokeswoman for the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners Club, told AFP 60 people were detained overnight but said the wave of arrests was “still ongoing” in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

“IDF efforts are focused on enabling operational capabilities, enhancing intelligence and influencing those that participated, are involved or have knowledge of the whereabouts of Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Ifrah,” said a statement from Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, the army’s official spokesman. “We are determined to bring them home and bring the perpetrators of their abduction to justice.”

In the northern West Bank, meanwhile, a 20-year-old Palestinian was killed by army fire in a clash between Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank refugee camp of Jalazoun, said Palestinian hospital official Samir Saliba.

Israel’s Justice Ministry said it held a meeting Sunday to examine a number of possible punitive steps against Hamas. The Justice Ministry would not elaborate on the actions being considered.

Israeli media reported that the government was considering deporting Hamas figures from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, demolishing homes of Hamas members and taking sanctions against Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails.

Israeli intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli Channel 10 on Monday that Israel would punish both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority government.

“If we don’t exact a harsh price, we encourage these things. A harsh price has an effect of deterrence,” said Steinitz, referring to the suspected kidnapping.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the abduction of three Israeli teens in his first public comments since they went missing in the West Bank four days ago.

In a statement Monday, his office condemned both the kidnappings and the subsequent Israeli crackdown.





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