In search for teens, Israeli troops arrest 51 Palestinians released in Shalit deal

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli troops arrested 65 Palestinians overnight, including 51 who were released in the Gilad Shalit deal with Hamas in 2011.

Since the beginning of the search for the three kidnapped Israeli teens, some 240 Palestinians have been arrested, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement issued Wednesday, including 180 Hamas activists. Some 800 homes and buildings have been searched, according to the IDF.

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Some 1,027 Palestinians jailed in Israeli prisons were released in October 2011 in exchange for Shalit, who had been captured and held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza five years earlier.

“Eyal, Gilad and Naftali are still in the hands of Hamas terrorists. These terrorists, their supporters and their leadership must know that our forces are operating day and night, turning every stone, in order to find them. Hamas terrorist ways are unacceptable, unbearable and will not be tolerated. It is our obligation, and we are determined to persist with our actions, that is already striking a substantial blow on Hamas terror infrastructure and its institutions,” said IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner in a statement.

The teens, including one dual Israeli-American citizen, have been missing since the night of June 12. They were last seen trying to get rides home from a junction in Gush Etzion, a bloc of settlements located south of Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning praised the Israeli forces.

“Last night’s operation in which Hamas terrorists – including many of those who were released under the agreement for the return of Gilad Shalit – sends an important message and is one in a series of operations that will continue in order to bring the abducted youths home and strike at Hamas in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said.