IDF Uncovers Weapons Caches in Search for Teens
JERUSALEM, Israel -- The drama surrounding the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers continued on Tuesday. One of the teens holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.
Following four days and nights of house-to-house searches in Hebron, the IDF deployed elite Nahal Brigade units to Nablus, biblical Shechem, where soldiers confiscated a large cache of weapons and uncovered a weapons manufacturing lab.
More than 40 suspected terrorists, most of them Hamas members, were taken into custody, bringing the total number of detainees to 200.
Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home Party, said Israel would operate "with full force" against members of Hamas in Judea and Samaria.
Bennett told IDF Radio the kidnappings changed Israel's tactics toward the Islamist group, the dominant Palestinian faction in the Gaza Strip.
He warned that membership in Hamas would become "a ticket to hell," dismissing P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas' statement Monday condemning the abductions, while also condemning Israel's security measures.
"In English they say one thing and in Arabic they speak of murder," Bennett said, calling Hamas one of the world's most "lethal, barbaric organizations."
Bennett said Israel must make the terrorists understand that affiliation with Hamas, known for its kidnappings and kidnapping attempts, isn't worth it.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israelis need to be prepared for the possibility that the search for the missing teens may take time.
"It is a serious event that will have serious consequences," Netanyahu said at a joint press conference at the IDF Central Command's Jerusalem headquarters. "We are acting together in a reasonable, responsible and determined manner. We are focusing on one mission: bringing back our boys who were kidnapped, and we're also operating against Hamas."
Netanyahu also said he expected members of the international community, many of whom rush to condemn building renovations in Israeli towns and cities in Judea and Samaria, to also condemn the abductions.
"I expect them to firmly condemn the criminal act of kidnapping our boys," he continued. "Whoever is against terrorism must condemn it wherever it is carried out. I expect other countries to join these condemnations and support the legitimate, just and necessary right of the State of Israel to defend itself."
Netanyahu said the IDF would continue to respond forcefully against Palestinian rocket fire, taking "even stronger action" if necessary.
Israel Air Force pilots targeted a weapons manufacturing facility in northern Gaza and two weapons warehouses in central and southern Gaza overnight Monday.
Experts say Hamas has been quietly infiltrating Judea and Samaria over the past few years, seeking to establish a strong enough presence there to pose a threat to rival Fatah members, the majority faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government at the beginning of June, which the Obama administration accepted despite Israel's objections.