IDF raid Hebron mosque.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Security forces clashed with Palestinians overnight Wednesday as they continued to target Hamas and scour the West Bank for the three kidnapped teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah, and Gil-Ad Shaer.
In Jenin, two Palestinians hurled explosives at soldiers and exchanged fire with them.
Soldiers shot and struck the attackers, whose condition was unknown. Clashes also broke out in Bethlehem and Bir Zeit, north of Ramallah.
Security forces say there is growing friction with Palestinians during the West Bank raids, which began shortly after Hamas abducted the teens from a hitchhiking post in Gush Etzion last Thursday night.
Soldiers arrested 30 Palestinian suspects in raids overnight Wednesday, most of them Hamas members, including two who were released in the 2011 Gilad Schalit exchange with Hamas.
In total, some 280 Palestinian prisoners – including 200 Hamas members – have been taken into custody since the start of the kidnapping crisis.
During raids on Thursday morning, 14 Hamas civilian institutions, used to propagate its ideology and spread its influence (known as Da’awa institutions), and a Hamas student university union (known as a Kutla) at Bir Zeit University were targeted.
All the while, an ongoing intelligence effort to gather information on the whereabouts of the abducted youths is taking place, a security source stressed. The threat of additional kidnappings “exists all of the time throughout the Judea and Samara sector, effective for these days too,” the source warned.
He provided an explanation into how Hamas uses social services to deepen its control in the West Bank.
“Hamas has based its political support through supporting the population. At first they open a store, but the public fears identifying with Hamas openly, so they open a school, and give all services for free. This causes the population to start supporting.
Eventually, the population supports Hamas completely openly,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Israel Air Force struck five terrorist targets in Gaza early on Thursday in response to a Palestinian rocket attack on the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council area, which damaged a home.
Targets included an underground rocket launcher and two operational sites in northern Gaza, and two additional sites in central Gaza.
The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of collectively punishing the Palestinian people.
“Netanyahu’s government has taken the three settlers’ disappearance as a pretext to impose the most severe punitive reprisals against the Palestinian people and besiege them in various cities, towns, and villages, which contradict with international humanitarian law,” Abbas’s office said in a statement it published on WAFA, the Palestine News and Information Agency.
He also charged that Israel’s arrest of Palestinians released in the Schalit deal was a violation of the terms of that agreement.
There is some concern that West Bank violence could increase on Friday, a day in which Palestinians there typically demonstrate against Israel.
There has also been some concern raised about a possible third intifada.
However, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is due to begin in eight days. In recent years, some 250,000 Palestinians have visited the Temple Mount for Ramadan prayers, and during the Eid al-Fitr holiday Israel gave Palestinian youths access to Tel Aviv beaches.
“The coming holiday is expected to be different. This will be determined in the coming days,” said the source.
Judea and Samaria police sent out a statement on Thursday morning saying it is increasing its support role in the search for the missing boys. Efforts are mainly focused on sending out extra officers to patrol hitchhiking posts and to man roving checkpoints set up to catch Palestinians illegally residing in Israeli-controlled areas.
Regarding possible protests on Friday, Israel Police spokesman Rafi Yafeh said police have not received any extra warnings that would require an increased deployment in Jerusalem or elsewhere. Nonetheless, he said they would be out in force around the Temple Mount.
Meanwhile, the Iron Dome missile-defense system successfully intercepted a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip over the southern city of Ashkelon on Thursday evening. No injuries or damage were reported in the attack.