Netanyahu: Israel has ‘unequivocal proof’ Hamas responsible for kidnappings

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has “unequivocal proof” that Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping of three Israeli teens more than a week ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet.

The proof and information have been shared by Israel with several countries and soon it will be made public, Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

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Netanyahu said that when the proof is made public, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks in Saudi Arabia, where he called for the teens’ return and said he was making an effort to locate the teens, “will be put to the test in practice.”

“His remarks will be tested not only by actions to return the boys home but by his willingness to dissolve the unity government with Hamas, which abducted the youths and calls for the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also spoke over the weekend with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and told him that Israel holds information about the kidnapping that points to Hamas. Ban said through a spokesman earlier in the week that there was no “concrete evidence” that the youths were kidnapped.

The prime minister met on Friday with the parents of the teens, who were abducted from a junction in Gush Etzion, located south of Jerusalem, on the evening of June 12.

Netanyahu told the parents of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel that locating the youths takes precedence over everything: “This is the principal goal of our operational and intelligence activity and all of the appropriate units are working on this objective. We have reinforced units in the field and we are making great efforts to reach the boys.”

Over the weekend, Israeli troops and security forces continued to work to locate the abducted teens, including widespread and extensive search and rescue operations in the western Hebron area.

Since the beginning of the operation, IDF forces have searched some 1350 locations for the abducted boys, for terrorists and for illegal weaponry. Some 340 suspects were detained, of which 250 terrorists are associated with Hamas. Security forces have operated against roughly 45 Hamas establishments.

Four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops in recent days including a man near Nablus on Sunday morning, who was reportedly mentally unstable. A boy, 14, was killed Friday near Hebron.

Netanyahu at the Sunday morning meeting called the deaths “necessary for self-defense.”

“We have no intention of deliberately harming anyone but our forces are acting as necessary for self-defense and from time to time there are victims or casualties on the Palestinian side as a result of the self-defense actions of our soldiers,” he said.

Abbas over the weekend called on Netanyahu to condemn the killings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers in the wake of his condemnation of the kidnappings.