Israel will take what ever action is necessary to protect its citizens, warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday. He spoke just hours after charging that Hamas had kidnapped the three missing Israeli teenagers and as the IDF issued a limited call up of its reservists.
The bulk of the reservists are heading to Hebron, to help the IDF maintain its closure on the city and to step up its efforts to hunt for the three teenagers who disappeared last Thursday night after hitching a ride in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank.
At the same time the air force deployed a number of Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries in southern Israel, to prepare for any escalation of its larger battle with the Hamas, which rules Gaza and has strengthened its foothold in the West Bank.
“Israel will act in all ways under its province, in all ways under our control, to bring home the three kidnapped teenagers,” Netanyahu said in a special statement that he issued in English to explain Israel’s position to the international community.
“Israel will act against the kidnappers and their terrorist sponsors and comrades. We will do whatever needs to be done to protect our people, our citizens, our children and our teenagers from the scourge of terrorism,” Netanyahu said.
He expanded on comments he made earlier in the day before the government’s weekly meeting, which was held at the defense compound in Tel Aviv rather than in its regular Jerusalem location at the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Hamas terrorists carried out Thursday's kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers. We know that for a fact,” Netanyahu said. Concerned was raised in particular because two top Hamas operatives have been absent from the West Bank since Thursday.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, however, denied Netanyahu’s “stupid” accusations and said they were a bluff intended to acquire information, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.
The IDF overnight arrested 80 Hamas members - including members of the Palestinian Legislative Council - in a massive wave of raids throughout the West Bank.
Abu Zuhri told Ma'an that the arrests by “occupation forces” in the West Bank were "designed to break Hamas," but they would not succeed in achieving their goal.
Hamas leaders Hassan Yousef, Wasfi Qabaha, Khaled Abu Arafeh and Mohammed Totah were among those arrested by the IDF, according to Palestinian reports.
Netanyahu said in response that Hamas denials do not change the facts of the matter with respect to an organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
He charged that the Fatah-Hamas unity pact and the international endorsement of the new Palestinian government sponsored by both factions for creating a climate that enabled the kidnapping.
“I believe that the dangers of that pact now should be abundantly clear to all,” said Netanyahu.
Terrorism emanating from the West Bank has risen since the pact was signed, Netanyahu said.
“We have seen Hamas strengthen its presence there, and this increases the likelihood that Hamas will take control of the Palestinian Authority, precisely as it did in Gaza,” Netanyahu said.
He said he also held Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the kidnapping because he partnered with Hamas while failing to disarm it.
“The Palestinian claim that the Palestinian Authority cannot be held responsible for an attack that took place in an area under Israeli security control is patently absurd,” Neanyahu said.
”When an attack takes place in Tel Aviv or in London or in New York – all these places have been attacked by terrorists – the question is not where the attack takes place. The question is where it originated. The kidnappers in this case set out from territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and the PA cannot absolve itself of its responsibility,” he said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman echoed Netanyahu during a visit to Ghana on Sunday. He told Ghana’s Foreign Minister Hanna Tetteh that Israel hoped to bring the teens home without a show of force, but added, that in the end the government would “do everything necessary to bring them home.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that Israel has a zero tolerance policy for terrorism and severely punishes it perpetrators.
“I urge the public to stand united behind the security forces as they complete their task using all means necessary at their disposal,” he said.