Jerusalem, 25 June-2014(IANS): Israeli security forces arrested 17 Palestinian suspects, mostly Hamas members, in raids across the West Bank as part of a massive operation to find three missing Israeli teenagers.
A military spokesman told Xinhua that among the detainees was Khaled Ibrahim, a senior Hamas activist and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who was arrested in Bethlehem.
“He also said there were no plans to scale back the manhunt that involves some 4,000 troops combing Palestinian cities, towns and villages with the aid of surveillance drones and helicopters.”
The latest arrests made overnight Tuesday brought the total number of Palestinians apprehended after the start of what the military called Operation Brother’s Keeper earlier this month to 371, among whom 282 are Hamas operatives.
Also, 57 of the detainees were jailed in Israeli prisons and were freed along with more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners in October 2011 in a swap for a Israeli soldier who was held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
During an operation in the Palestinian city of Tul Karm between late night Tuesday and early Wednesday, a few dozen local residents hurled rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops who responded with riot dispersal equipment.
There were no reports of injuries on either side. Israeli forces reportedly seized weapons during a sweep in the Jenin refugee camp.
Nearly two weeks after the Jewish teenagers, who studied in West Bank seminaries, went missing from a hitchhiking junction in Gush Etzion, a settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, their fate and whereabouts remain unknown and no demands for their release have been made.
Israel accused Hamas of carrying out the abductions but has not offered proof.
Israel’s military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Tuesday that concerns for the teenagers’ lives were rising as time passed, though they were still presumed to be alive.
He also said there were no plans to scale back the manhunt that involves some 4,000 troops combing Palestinian cities, towns and villages with the aid of surveillance drones and helicopters.
On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed in an address to a crowd of young American Jews that Israel won’t rest until it rescues the teenagers and finds the abductors.