Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official and former Palestinian Authority security commander in the West Bank, said on Thursday that Israel understands only the language of abductions.

Referring to the kidnapping of the three Israeli youths – Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel – in the West Bank last week, he told the Ramallah- based Wattan TV that although he was opposed to the kidnapping of civilians, be they Israelis or Palestinians, “apparently Israel understands only the language of abductions.”

Rajoub, who serves as chairman of the Palestinian Football Association and is closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that “the kidnapping of soldiers has become the only solution that Israel understands to release our prisoners, whose number is growing every day.”

His remarks are seen as a challenge to Abbas, who has twice condemned the kidnapping of the three youths and demanded their release.

Rajoub is one of a number of top Fatah officials who see themselves as potential successors to Abbas.

He spent 15 years in Israeli prison before he was released in a prisoner swap with Israel in 1985.

Kayed al-Ghoul, member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, defended the kidnapping of the Israeli youths.

“The kidnapping operation of the three Israeli soldiers comes in the context of the Palestinians’ right to respond to the abduction of an entire people,” Ghoul told Wattan TV.

He said that the nature of the conflict with Israel requires Palestinians to launch all forms of “resistance, including taking into captivity soldiers and settlers in order to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners, who are facing the cruelest forms of repression and humiliation in occupation prisons.”

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