Israel said on Sunday Hamas had abducted three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank, warning of “serious consequences” as it pressed on with a search and detained dozens of Palestinians.
The two 16-year-olds and a third man aged 19 disappeared on Thursday night in the West Bank, where they were seminary students in a Jewish settlement.
“Those who carried out the kidnapping of our youngsters are Hamas people,” Netanyahu told his cabinet, referring to the Palestinian Islamist group that has ruled the Gaza Strip.
No one has publicly claimed responsibility for abducting the three Israelis, and there was no immediate response from Hamas to Netanyahu’s accusations.
“This will have serious consequences. At the moment we are focusing all our efforts on bringing the abducted home,” Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks at the cabinet session in Tel Aviv, where he has been overseeing security efforts at military headquarters.
Since the three went missing, the Israeli army has carried out house-to-house searches, round-ups and interrogations in the Palestinian city of Hebron and outlying villages.
In a statement, the military said that as part of the “effort to return the three abducted Israeli teenagers approximately 80 Palestinian suspects were detained in a widespread overnight operation”.
Palestinian officials put the number of people taken into custody so far by Israeli authorities at more than 100 and said they included at least seven Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament and several prisoners recently released by Israel.
Israel identified the teenagers as Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Sha’er and Naftali Frankel, who also holds US citizenship.
The incident tests ties between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which were frayed by his power-sharing deal in April with Hamas Islamists who have been ruling the Gaza Strip and are hostile to the Jewish state.