Israeli troops arrest 80 Palestinians

Updated 16 June 2014

Israeli troops arrest 80 Palestinians

JERUSALEM: Israeli troops on Sunday arrested some 80 Palestinians, including dozens of Hamas members, in an overnight raid in the West Bank as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the militant group of kidnapping three teenagers who went missing nearly three days ago.
The crisis escalated already heightened tensions between Israel and the new Palestinian government, which is headed by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas but has Hamas as its partner.
Netanyahu has condemned Abbas’ agreement with the militant group, and said he would hold him responsible for the safety of the youths, who disappeared apparently while hitchhiking in the West Bank late Thursday. The three, one of whom holds American citizenship, have not been heard from since then.
Palestinian officials condemned the overnight crackdown and rejected Netanyahu’s contention that they are responsible. Hamas, meanwhile, praised the apparent kidnapping but stopped short of accepting responsibility.
Speaking to his Cabinet Sunday, Netanyahu said there was no doubt who was responsible.
“Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas, the same Hamas that Abu Mazen made a unity government with. This has severe repercussions,” he said. Abbas is also known as Abu Mazen.
Netanyahu did not say how Israel determined Hamas was responsible.
Palestinian militants have repeatedly threatened to kidnap Israelis, hoping to use them as bargaining chips to win the release of prisoners held by Israel. This would be the first time three civilians have been taken at the same time.
The overnight raid was concentrated in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, in the area where the youths disappeared.
A Hamas website said more than 60 of those arrested were members, including senior figures in the movement. The Israeli military also detained supporters of Islamic Jihad, a smaller Palestinian militant group.
“Palestinian terrorists will not feel safe, will not be able to hide and will feel the heavy arm of the Israeli military capabilities,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
The Palestinians’ self-rule government, which administers 38 percent of the West Bank, has insisted it is not to blame, saying the teens went missing in territory under full Israeli control.
“The Israeli government cannot blame the Palestinians for security issues in areas that are not controlled by them,” said Ehab Bseiso, the spokesman of the Palestinian unity government.
He also condemned what he called the “latest Israeli military escalation against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza and the Israeli air attacks on Gaza, which led to the wounding of several Palestinians.”
Asked about Netanyahu’s claim that Hamas carried out the kidnapping, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, said that “this is something we have no information on.”
In its first statement on the issue, Hamas praised the kidnapping but did not claim responsibility. In a message sent to journalists, it referred to “the success of the kidnapping” and said that “the movement pays tribute to the heroes who are behind the kidnapping.”
In the Gaza Strip, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed Netanyahu’s claims of Hamas involvement in the abductions as “silly.”
Hamas governed Gaza for seven years before striking the unity deal with Abbas. It remains in de facto control of the coastal territory, which is separated from the West Bank by Israel.
Despite the exchange of accusations, security officials from Israel and Abbas’ forces have been cooperating closely in the West Bank trying to find the kidnappers.
Abbas met with his security chiefs late Saturday and urged them to do anything they can to contribute to the search, said a senior Palestinian official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief journalists.
Hamas, branded a terror group by the West for its long history of attacks on Israeli civilians, has been involved in past abductions.
But this time around, there are other potential suspects. In recent months, there have been growing signs of the emergence in the West Bank of small groups of militants who identify with Al-Qaeda.
One of several claims of responsibility for the kidnapping came from a group that said it was linked to an Al-Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which controls parts of Syria and overran parts of northern Iraq last week.
A Palestinian group representing prisoners said about 100 were arrested in the raid, including some who have been jailed in the past.
The military also said its aircraft struck several targets in Gaza overnight in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Kidra said a girl was lightly wounded.


Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

Updated 16 min 26 sec ago

Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

  • Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects
  • Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years

JERUSALEM: A rare homemade bomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed an Israeli teen and seriously wounded her father and brother Friday as they visited a spring near a Jewish settlement, officials said.
Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects.
Israeli medics had earlier reported that a 17-year-old had been critically wounded in the attack and officials later announced her death, naming her as Rina Shnerb from the central Israeli city of Lod.
Medics from the Magen David Adom rescue service initially gave the ages of the two wounded as 46 and 20, before amending to 21 in the latter case.
The army said the three victims were a father and his two children.
The two wounded were taken by helicopter to hospital, the army said.
“Three civilians who were in a nearby spring were injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “harsh terrorist attack” and sent condolences to the family, while pledging to continue building settlements.
“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” he said in a statement.
“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the “shocking, heinous” attack, saying there was nothing heroic in Shnerb’s “murder,” calling it a “despicable, cowardly act.”
“Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
Israeli forces meanwhile entered the Palestinian village of Beitunia, south of the spring, to take footage from surveillance cameras.
An AFP reporter said Palestinians clashed there with Israeli soldiers, but no casualties were reported.
Chief of the army, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the site of the attack to understand the incident and oversee the efforts to locate the perpetrators, which he was “confident” would happen quickly, the military said.
Later in the day, Shnerb was buried in her hometown Lod, with thousands participating in the funeral.
Shnerb’s father Eitan, who was wounded and couldn’t attend the funeral, relayed through an uncle his request that people focus on “our strength and love and the wonderful nation and our good land” and avoid sinking into “weakness and anger and strife.”
“We should be worthy of the great sacrifice we offered today,” Eitan Shnerb was cited by the uncle as saying.
In a speech on Friday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
He referred to a recent clash between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and sought to draw a link between the two incidents.
AFP reporters said thousands of Gazans participated in weekly Friday protests at the Israeli border fence, with some youths using slingshots to launch stones at the barrier and a few approaching it.
The health ministry in the enclave said over 122 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, dozens of them hit by live fire.
Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years.
Palestinian attacks have mostly involved guns, knives and car ramming.
There have been concerns about a possible increase in violence in the run up to Israel’s September 17 general election.
A week ago, a Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, wounding two Israelis before being shot dead.
On August 8, an off-duty Israeli soldier’s body was found with multiple stab wounds. Two Palestinian suspects were later arrested.
Late Thursday, a Palestinian threw grenades at Israeli soldiers while attempting to cross the Gaza border and was shot by Israeli forces, leaving him wounded, the army and the Gaza health ministry said.
Gaza militants have also launched six missiles at Israel in the past week; the most recent were on Wednesday.
In retaliation, the Israeli army said it struck “a number of military targets in a Hamas naval facility in the northern Gaza Strip.”