Israel Mobilizing Reserves as Fears Grow for Missing Teens
After an extraordinary government cabinet meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning, the Israel Defense Forces announced that it was ordering a partial call-up of reserves.
The troops will augment units that have been shifted from their regular duties to "Operation Return Our Sons," the intensive search for three Israeli high school students kidnapped by Palestinian Arab terrorists late Thursday night, Israel Radio reported.
One of the missing boys is believed to have dual Israeli and American citizenship.
Israeli authorities have placed the onus for the kidnapping on Hamas.
"Those who carried out the abduction of our boys were members of Hamas," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"This will have severe consequences," he added.
The boys, Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, were taken captive while hitchhiking in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank just south of Jerusalem, The Times of Israel reported.
Given erratic public transportation connecting Jewish communities in the West Bank hitchhiking is a way of life for many young people.
Hamas recently joined a Palestinian Authority unity government headed by Mahmoud Abbas. While Netanyahu did not mention the Obama administration by name, he did denounce "elements" in the "international community" that continued to back Abbas despite his coalition with Hamas.
Israeli security officials say that the Palestinian Authority is now cooperating in the search for the missing youths, according to Israel Radio.
No one is suggesting that Abbas wanted this to happen. The kidnapping complicates his position. But his so-called unity government has boosted Hamas and covers the expenses for Hamas employees in the West Bank. It also helps the legitimacy of the group which openly calls for Israel's destruction --whereas more moderate Arab groups are prepared to see Israel destroyed in step-by-step phases.
No Palestinian Arab group from the most moderate to the most extreme recognizes the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland anywhere in the Middle East -- within any boundaries.
By early Sunday morning, Israeli security forces in the West Bank had arrested 80 Palestinians among them senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives.
Most of these are "political" as opposed to "military" operatives.
Claims by several jihadi groups that they—and not Hamas— carried out the kidnappings have apparently been discounted by Israeli authorities.
Israel is sealing off the West Bank from Jordan and from Gaza to ensure the boys are not moved out of the country, the Times reported.
By Sunday afternoon, the search had narrowed to a number of "villages" south of Hebron.
Security in Judea and Samaria -- or the West Bank -- has steadily deteriorated.
Under U.S. and European Union pressure all internal checkpoints in the territory have long been abandoned to ease Palestinian civilian life and to strengthen the political standing of Abbas.
Israeli analysts say that a series of prisoner releases has contributed to insecurity and strengthened radical Palestinian groups.
In October 2011, Israel released 1,027 convicted prisoners in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit. More recently, over 100 convicts were set free to entice Abbas to the negotiating table.
Both releases were carried out by the Netanyahu government.
A hunger strike by some of the 200 Hamas and PFLP prisoners being held under administrative detention has been the focus of recent West Bank demonstrations.
These are dangerous men who have not been formerly tried but whose imprisonment has been reviewed by several levels of the Israeli justice apparatus.
The post-Zionist Haaretz newspaper has championed their release.
Israel Channel 2's Arab affairs reporter Ehud Ya'ari said that Hamas operations in the West Bank are now being coordinated from Istanbul, Turkey, by one of the prisoners released in the Shalit deal.
News of the kidnappings was welcomed by many Palestinians with some women handing out sweet pastries to celebrate.
Meanwhile, in protest to the kidnappings, Israeli settlements in the West Bank have told Palestinian employees not to report for work until further notice.
Special prayers were offered at synagogues throughout Israel on Saturday and at many Orthodox schools on Sunday.
There is mounting concern that the boys may already have been murdered.
Security sources tell journalists they expect to solve the case in a matter of days but that does not necessarily mean there will be good news at the endgame.
Incidentally, Netanyahu has cancelled most of his scheduled Sunday appointments except a memorial for those killed by Haganah forces on orders of David Ben-Gurion in their attack on the Irgun boat Altelana (see for details on that tragedy http://elliotjager.blogspot.com.tr/2011/06/altalena-irgun-and-ben-gurion.html)