Israeli forces searching for three Jewish teenagers who went missing.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IDF conducted widespread searches throughout Friday night and Saturday morning in the West Bank to locate three missing teenage settlers that have been missing since Thursday evening.
Palestinian News Agency Ma'an reported that a number of Palestinians had been arrested in connection to the disappearances but the report was not confirmed by the IDF.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz on Saturday morning held a situation assessment at the Hebron Brigade headquarters.
A Palestinian Authority spokesman denounced Israel for blaming the new Fatah-Hamas unity government for the disappearance of three settlers in the West Bank, Ma'an reported Friday night.
Adnan Dmeiri said the PA was not responsible for the safety of settlers and had no way to prevent the possible kidnapping of the teenagers.
The PA “is used to accusations from [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s arbitrary government, which does not want to commit to any agreement and wants to damage all relations with Palestinians,” he was quoted as saying.
Earlier on Friday, Israeli government officials said they were holding Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the fate of the three students. They also said they were holding the unity government responsible for the students' well-being.
Dmeiri was quoted as saying that the PA had no information about the missing settlers, noting that Gush Etzion, the settlement from which the teenagers are believed to have disappeared, “is under Israeli security control.”
He added that, "the PA is not responsible for the security of settlers.”
Dmeiri also told Ma'an he was unaware of any cooperation with Israel in the search for the settlers.
Netanyahu convened senior defense officials for a second meeting late Friday hours after authorities launched a frantic search for three yeshiva students who went missing in the West Bank on Thursday.
Israeli defense officials probing the disappearance of three Jewish teens in the West Bank are operating under the working assumption that Palestinian militants kidnapped the youths in order to trade them for terrorists incarcerated in Israeli prisons, Channel 2 reported on Friday.
According to the report, defense officials are waiting for intelligence leads or indications from the alleged captors in order to determine the next steps.
An extremist Salafist organization in the West Bank claimed responsibility for kidnapping three missing Israeli youths, Channel 10 is reporting.
The organization, Dawlat al-Islam, released a statement saying that the abductions were aimed at taking revenge against Israel for the killing of three of their operatives in the West Bank months ago. There has been no official confirmation of the claim's veracity.
Security forces fear that three teenage yeshiva boys, all 16 years of age, were kidnapped in the West Bank after they went missing from a hitchhiking spot in the Gush Etzion area Thursday night.
The youths went missing during the course of Thursday night and security forces are conducting sweeping searches of the area.
Israel says it holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the well-being of the missing youths.