Netanyahu speaks to Abbas for first in over a year, asks him to help return abducted teens; Palestinian killed in clashes with IDF outside Ramallah; 40 Palestinians arrested overnight, including parliament speaker.
The search for the three kidnapped yeshiva students entered its fourth day on Monday. The Israeli military on Sunday called up a limited number of reserves and is now focusing most of its efforts to find Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad, Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, from Talmon, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon in the Hebron area.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Sunday that Hamas is behind the abduction. Netanyahu asserted that he holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the teens’ fate. The Ma’an Palestinian news agency quoted Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, as saying that Israel “has a lot of information on the kidnapping case. The investigation is conducted in absolute secrecy.”
On Sunday it was cleared for publication that one of the abducted teens managed to call the police emergency line immediately after he was taken, at 10:25 P.M. on Thursday and said: “We’ve been kidnapped.”
The security cabinet is scheduled to convene on Monday at noon to further discuss efforts to locate the three teenagers. One of the ideas being considered is to expel senior Hamas members from the West Bank to Gaza, as a way of pressuring the organization. The Justice Ministry convened on Sunday to explore whether such steps are in keeping with international law.
The U.S. on Sunday condemned the kidnapping, and called for the immediate release of the three teens. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. is still looking for information as to who is behind the incident, but adds that “many indications point to Hamas’ involvement.” The military’s working assumption is that the three are still in the West Bank.
Rockets were fired late on Sunday toward the southern city of Ashkelon. Iron Dome battery intercepted two of them, the rest landed in open areas. No one was wounded and no damage was done.
11:58 A.M.: In first conversation in over a year, Netanyahu spoke to Abbas on Monday and told him he expected him to help return the abducted teens and catch their abductors. “The abductors from Hamas came from an area under Palestinian Authority control and returned to PA-controlled territory,” Netanyahu said. “It’s important to understand the consequences of the unity with Hamas – it’s bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, and bad for the area. (Barak Ravid)
11:38 A.M.: The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issues a first statement condemning the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. “Both sides should refrain from violence,” the statement said.
10:57 A.M. The IDF says three soldiers were lightly wounded by rocks thrown at them during the clashes in the al-Jilazoun refugee camp. Military officials add that a gun and two cartridges were found at a nearby home; the resident has been taken in for questioning.
10:55 A.M. Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz warns of “earth-shattering” consequences if the three missing teens are hurt.
10:34 A.M. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch says thousands of soldiers and police have been deployed in search of the three missing teens.
“We’re doing everything to bring the abductees home,” he said, reiterating that Hamas is behind the kidnapping and that Israel is holding the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, responsible.
9:40 A.M.: The IDF confirms that a Palestinian man, Ahmad Asabarin, 23, was shot to death overnight by Israeli forces in the Jilazoun refugee camp in the West Bank. The IDF says the youth was shot after he threw a large brick toward the soldiers.Two other youths were moderately hurt in the clashes. (Gili Cohen)
9:30 A.M. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said during a briefing on Sunday night that the military’s foremost goals are to “find the three boys and bring them home, and to hurt Hamas as much as possible.” (Gili Cohen)
7:41 A.M. According to reports in Gaza, four sustain light and moderate wounds in an IAF strike on a Hamas base. (Gili Cohen and Jack Khoury)
6:54 A.M. The IDF arrests 40 Palestinians in the West Bank overnight, including Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Duwaik. So far 150 Palestinians have been arrested as part of the search for the missing teens.
Top military officials convene for a briefing and decide against expanding the scope of the military operation. Arrests of Hamas operatives in the West Bank are expected to continue.
A senior IDF official says the military is not aware of a Palestinian who was killed during the clashes in the al-Jilazoun refugee camp. The death was reported earlier by Palestinian medical staff and witnesses. According to the official, the report is being investigated, as are reports of Palestinians wounded in IAF strikes in Gaza.
The IDF believes that the Islamic Jihad was behind Sunday night’s rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas was not responsible for the attack, a military official says. (Gili Cohen)
5:45 A.M. Three Palestinians were reportedly wounded in an Israeli air strike on Gaza, including 3-year-old child. The IDF earlier on Monday issued a statement that said it conducted an aerial strike in the Gaza Strip as a response to rocket fire from Gaza on Sunday. (DPA)
5:25 A.M. A 20-year-old Palestinians was killed and another was wounded during clashes with Israeli forces near Ramallah, according to Palestinian hospital officials.
Witnesses say Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers conducting house-to-house searches in al-Jilazoun refugee camp, outside Ramallah, before dawn. (Reuters)
3:15 A.M. Israel Air Force strikes five targets in the Gaza Strip, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit says in a statement. One of the targets was described as a “center for terrorist activity” and three others are said to be weapons-manufacturing and storage sites – all in the northern Gaza Strip – and another location of terrorist activity in the Strip’s south. The IDF says direct hits were identified.
The stament says that the strike was a response to the rocket fire from Gaza toward southern Israel on Sunday. (Gili Cohen)
12:22 A.M. The government is weighing whether to expel senior Hamas men from the West Bank to Gaza as a way of pressuring the organization to help resolve the kidnapping of the three teens. A senior Israeli official says the Justice Ministry had held a discussion Sunday on whether this was legally feasible.
The assessments and discussions in the Prime Minister’s Office over the past few days have included talk of ways of punishing Hamas aimed at pressuring the organization’s senior officials. The senior Israeli source says among the options discussed are expelling senior Hamas men from the West Bank to Gaza, demolishing the homes of Hamas operatives and sanctions against Hamas inmates in Israeli prisoners.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, together with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and other ministry officials, convened on Sunday to explore whether such steps were in keeping with international law and would stand up to challenges in the High Court of Justice. No decisions were made Sunday, but research into the issue is continuing. (Barak Ravid)