Israel steps up arrests amid search for kidnapped teens

Israeli forces have detained more than 200 Palestinians, mostly Hamas activists, in their biggest crackdown on the militant group in years. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnappings last week.

Nasser Ishtayeh/AP
Israeli soldiers walk during an operation in Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Israel's army says it has arrested 41 more Palestinians in the West Bank, expanding searches for three missing Israeli teens who Israel believes Hamas kidnapped last week.

A daily roundup of terrorism and security issues.

Israeli soldiers arrested 41 Palestinians in the West Bank early on Tuesday while searching for three Israeli teenagers, Israel Defense Forces officials said, underscoring the military’s crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank while they search for the missing teens. 

Israel blames Hamas for the disappearance of three seminary students who were hitchhiking in the West Bank last week. Israeli forces have detained more than 200 Palestinians, mostly Hamas activists, in “the biggest West Bank crackdown on the militant group in almost a decade,” according to the Associated Press.

The overnight search included about 1,000 soldiers, who shut down a shop manufacturing weapons, confiscated pistols, explosives, grenades, and ammunition, and seized computers belonging to a Hamas-affiliated group, according to Israel’s Haaretz. About half of the arrests were in Nablus, the West Bank city north of Hebron where earlier searches concentrated.

In a meeting Monday, officers decided “to expand the treatment of Hamas in the West Bank, and use the upcoming days to arrest anyone ‘infected’ with Hamas,” an unnamed senior military officer told Haaretz.

Hamas, an Islamist movement that does not recognize Israel’s right to existence, has neither accepted nor denied responsibility for the kidnapping, Reuters reports.

Also on Tuesday, the European Union condemned the kidnapping and called for the safe return of the three teenagers, identified as Eyal Yifrach,19, and Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16. Israel had criticized the EU for not speaking out against the incident earlier. The US, Canada, Great Britain, and Spain have all condemned the attack.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Christa Case Bryant, explains that Israel views the kidnappings as the “inevitable fruit” of the reconciliation deal announced in April between the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s criticism of the Palestinian Authority could undermine its close security cooperation with its security forces, the Monitor reported:

But Israel is also walking a fine line: Its coordination with Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank is widely credited with establishing a relative calm over the past few years by helping Israeli forces to hunt down militants and thwart attacks on Israelis. 


In an environment where Israeli soldiers control the movement of Palestinians, and can detain suspects without charge for months on end, the PA’s coordination with Israeli security forces is deeply unpopular – particularly among Hamas supporters, who advocate armed resistance.

While Israel has sought help from PA security forces in tracking down the kidnappers, Hamas deeply disagrees with such security coordination though it does not appear to have the political leverage to stop it. 

Tension is rising in the West Bank, where residents are angry that the search for three missing teens are making international headlines, while a Palestinian prisoner hunger strike and the detention of Palestinians by Israeli forces go unnoticed, The New York Times reports.

“Our children, the prisoners, more than 50 days they’re without food, and nobody talks about it. Because of this kidnapping, the whole world opens its mouth,” said Kayed Jaber, 49, a father of 10 [in Hebron]. “They have three boys missing,” he added, referring to Israel. “This is like they arrest 800,000 people in the Hebron area — look at the checkpoints.”


The local radio station played warlike anthems interspersed with bulletins about how many tanks were invading what neighborhood. In the Bab al Zawya district, Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets at a few youths hurling stones and rolling flaming tires. Along Peace Street, the main thoroughfare, sweet shops and cellphone stands, car dealerships and clothing boutiques all sat idle behind roll-down gates or wooden shutters.

Many said there had not been similar scenes since the violent second intifada in the early 2000s.

“We, as Palestinians, of course we are suffering collective punishment,” said Daoud Zatari, Hebron’s mayor. “If it will last long it will have devastating and severe consequences on the people, not only from the economic side. The life is miserable now. They are feeling they are living in a surrounded zone, as if we are all in a big jail.”

There are also rampant conspiracy rumors in the Palestinian territories, questioning whether the kidnapping actually occurred, the Times reports:

Leaders referred to the “alleged kidnapping” in some of their official statements, and social networks were filled with conspiracy theories of how Jewish settlers staged the event or the Israeli government was using it as a pretext to oust Hamas from the West Bank and thwart the Palestine Liberation Organization’s recent reconciliation with Hamas.

Ahmad Abu Eisheh, 27, noted that no credible claim of responsibility had yet emerged.

“Hamas announces when they kidnap,” said Mr. Abu Eisheh, who works at a cleaning company. “For sure it’s a film. They want to destroy the reconciliation.”

At the core of the dispute are "fears and frustrations on both sides,"  the Monitor explains:

The incident highlights fears and frustrations on both sides, with Israelis deeply concerned about the security ramifications of Hamas rejoining the Palestinian government based in the West Bank, and Palestinians backing almost 300 prisoners on hunger strike due to Israel’s practice of holding them without charge for six months or longer.

With Israel’s track record of releasing Palestinian prisoners for kidnapped soldiers, such as the swap of 1,027 prisoners for Sgt. Gilad Shalit in 2011, many Palestinians advocate the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers or civilians as bargaining chips for justice.


You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Israel steps up arrests amid search for kidnapped teens
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today