The European Union on Saturday issued its second condemnation of the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli teens from a hitchhiking post in Gush Etzion in the West Bank.
It also urged Israel to restrain its activities against the Palestinians in the West Bank as it continues to search for the teens.
“The EU reiterates its condemnation of the recent abduction of three Israeli students in the West Bank and calls once again for their immediate release and safe return to their families,” the EU said.
“Such acts can only undermine international efforts to encourage a resumption of peace negotiations,” it said.
The EU was initially hesitant to condemn the kidnapping and did so five days after the event, well after the US, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
But in the same statement, it criticized Israeli actions against Palestinians during Operation Brother’s Keeper and urged IDF restraint.
Israel has charged Hamas with taking the teens and targeted the terrorist group as it undergoes a massive search for the teens in the West Bank, specifically in the Hebron area.
Late Friday night and early Saturday morning, the IDF arrested 18 Palestinians, of which 12 were Hamas members.
It also arrested an additional nine Palestinians late Thursday night and Friday morning but the IDF did not specify if they were affiliated with Hamas.
It did say that since the start of the operation it had arrested 400 Palestinians, of which some 300 were Hamas members.
The IDF said that it has searched 2,000 West Bank homes during the search for the teens.
On Saturday, the EU said, “it regrets the violence which has erupted in the West Bank as a result of the abduction, in particular the killing of several Palestinians, and calls on Israel to use proportionate means only to bring about the return of the abductees.”
In its statement on Saturday, the EU also commended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for “his unequivocal condemnation of the abduction and welcomes the cooperation of the Palestinian security services in the search for the abductees.”
It added: “statements made by some Hamas leaders that glorify the perpetrators of the abduction are unacceptable.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone with the parents of Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.
“Our supreme mission is to bring the boys home. We are using every means to this end and all operations are for this goal,” Netanyahu said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also met with the parents on Friday in his Tel Aviv office, along with IDF Chief-of- Staff Benny Gantz and Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen.
“The investigation has advanced since we last met, but we must still be patient,” Ya’alon said as he updated them on details regarding the search for their son.
“Our working assumption is that the boys are alive, until there is proof otherwise,” Ya’alon said. “We are not holding back on anything.”
He said that the IDF’s full force is invested in searching for the teens, which includes combining efforts with the Border Police and the Shin Bet – both on an operational and intelligence level. “This is an extremely complex task.”
“We won’t rest until we lay our hands on the kidnappers and find the boys,” Ya’alon said.
On Sunday evening, the One Family organization plans to hold a rally in support of the kidnapped teens at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv at 7:30 p.m.
The mothers of the three teens – Rachel Fraenkel, Bat- Galim Shaer and Iris Yifrah – are expected to speak.
Well-known Israeli singers Rami Kleinstein, Tzvika Pik, Dudu Fisher and Yonatan Razael will perform. President- elect Reuven Rivlin will also address the audience.