Israel is working hard to find and rescue three abducted Jewish youth, but it is also using the crisis as an opportunity to hopefully deal a debilitating blow to the Hamas terrorist organization.
Israel has determined that Hamas was behind the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel last Thursday, and that assessment has been largely backed up by the United States, Europe and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel has issued a limited call-up to IDF reservists as it arrests hundreds of Hamas leaders and lays siege to the Judean town of Hebron, a stronghold for the radical Islamist group. On Tuesday, Israel extended the operation to the Samarian town of Nablus (biblical Shechem), where even more Hamas leaders were rounded up.
“As long as our boys remain abducted, Hamas will feel pursued, paralyzed and threatened,” said army spokesman Lt. Peter Lerner. “We are committed to resolving the kidnapping and debilitating Hamas terrorist capacities, its infrastructure and its recruiting institutions.”
Army Radio called the operation as a “root canal” aimed at “uprooting everything green in the West Bank,” referring to Hamas’ official color.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett was even harsher in his remarks. “We will turn membership in Hamas into an entry ticket to hell,” he told reporters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, cautioned Israelis to be patient and prepare for an extended ordeal. “We are here in the midst of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the possibility that it may take time. This is a serious event and there will be serious consequences,” said the Israeli leader.
The Palestinian Authority condemned what it called escalating Israeli aggression, but also took steps to halt implementation of its recently signed reconciliation pact with Hamas. A senior PA official told The Times of Israel that if Hamas truly was behind the abduction, then the Palestinian unity deal of which Israel was so derisive would become null and void.
For its part, Hamas condemned cooperation between Israel and the PA in the search for the missing Jewish youth, and said Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas should instead be declaring jihad against the Jewish state.