Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal denied Monday that his organization had any information about the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the West Bank on June 13 but he applauded the action to capture who he called the three "soldier settlers."
"We don't have any information about the missing three soldier-settlers," Mashaal was quoted as saying by Palimes, a website aligned with the group.
"If indeed there was a capture, those who did it must be saluted," he added.
Last week security sources said that a May speech by Mashaal in Doha may have been a signal for Hamas in Hebron to move ahead with the kidnapping of the Israelis
One of the sources said he believed the kidnappers did not receive an official “operational order” to kidnap the Israelis.
“Based on my knowledge of them [Hamas in the West Bank], they do not receive such orders,” he said.
Instead, the source said, “they heard a speech by Mashaal at the end of May, in which he read out a letter,” sent by a Hamas prisoner speaking of his hardships.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday that Israel has unequivocal evidence that Hamas was behind the abductions of the teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Elad Yifrah.
“We are passing that evidence and information along to certain states, and soon it will be made public,” he said. Netanyahu said that once the public has this information, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation in Saudi Arabia of the kidnappings will be “judged practically.”
“His words will not only be judged in terms of actions taken to bring the boys home, but also by his willingness to break up the unity government with Hamas, which kidnapped the youth and calls for Israel's destruction,” he said.
Yaakov Lappin and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.