News / Middle East

    Israel Ramps Up Pressure on Hamas in Hunt for Missing Teens

    Israeli soldiers walk during an operation near Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus,Tuesday, June 17, 2014.
    Israeli soldiers walk during an operation near Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus,Tuesday, June 17, 2014.
    Reuters
    Israel's security cabinet decided on Tuesday to widen a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank after troops detained more than 40 members of the Palestinian Islamist group in sweeps conducted in tandem with a search for three missing teenagers.
     
    Israel accuses Hamas of kidnapping the three youths after they left their religious school in a Jewish settlement on Thursday. Hamas has neither claimed nor denied responsibility for their disappearance.
     
    The Israeli army has launched house-to-house searches, round-ups of suspects and interrogations in Hebron, a Hamas stronghold, and then in other parts of the occupied West Bank, in a mobilisation on a scale not seen in years.
     
    “We are turning Hamas membership into a ticket to hell,” Naftali Bennett, a far-right member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet, told Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday.
     
    Female relatives of slain Palestinian Ahmad Arafat Sabarin, 20, who was killed by Israeli army fire early Monday during a confrontation between stone throwers and Israeli soldiers, cries with a relative at the family house, prior to his funeral procession in the refugee camp of Jalazoun, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Monday, June 16, 2014.Female relatives of slain Palestinian Ahmad Arafat Sabarin, 20, who was killed by Israeli army fire early Monday during a confrontation between stone throwers and Israeli soldiers, cries with a relative at the family house, prior to his funeral procession in the refugee camp of Jalazoun, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Monday, June 16, 2014.
    x
    Female relatives of slain Palestinian Ahmad Arafat Sabarin, 20, who was killed by Israeli army fire early Monday during a confrontation between stone throwers and Israeli soldiers, cries with a relative at the family house, prior to his funeral procession in the refugee camp of Jalazoun, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Monday, June 16, 2014.
    Female relatives of slain Palestinian Ahmad Arafat Sabarin, 20, who was killed by Israeli army fire early Monday during a confrontation between stone throwers and Israeli soldiers, cries with a relative at the family house, prior to his funeral procession in the refugee camp of Jalazoun, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Monday, June 16, 2014.
    Israeli troops swept into a second West Bank city on Monday, touching off street confrontations in which they killed a Palestinian, witnesses and hospital officials said.

    The bloodshed near the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah marked an escalation in a dragnet which risks ensnaring U.S.-backed President Mahmoud Abbas though it targets Hamas, Islamist rivals with which he agreed a power-share in April.

    The Palestinian Information Ministry accused Israel of inflicting collective punishment - a charge echoed by several international human rights groups.
     
    “An entire population is being held hostage to the whims of the Israeli occupation,” the Palestinian ministry said.
     
    Israel has said it does not know if Gil-Ad Shaer and U.S.-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, are alive or what their captors' demands might be.
     
    At its meeting on Tuesday, Netanyahu's security cabinet agreed to make more arrests, put up roadblocks and turn Palestinian houses into military observation posts to increase pressure on Hamas, a political source said.
     
    An Israeli official said ministers had also debated a proposal to deport West Bank Hamas leaders to Gaza.
     
    Earlier, the army said it had detained 41 Hamas militants in overnight raids, raising to more than 200 the number arrested since Friday. Israel officials acknowledged the operation was two-fold - recovering the missing teenagers and weakening Hamas.
     
    “Pursued, paralyzed and threatened”
     
    “As long as our boys remain abducted, Hamas will feel pursued, paralyzed and threatened. We are committed to resolving the kidnapping and debilitating Hamas terrorist capacities, its infrastructure and its recruiting institutions,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.
     
    Israel showed photographs of what it said were hundreds of weapons, including guns, seized at some of the detainees' homes.
     
    Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned both the kidnappings and the Israeli raids.
     
    Mirroring scenes played out elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers filed through a street of shuttered homes and shops in the town of Jenin on Tuesday, lobbing stun grenades and firing rubber bullets at Palestinians who threw rocks at them.
     
    Five Palestinians wounded
     
    Israeli and Palestinian security sources said soldiers and police had wounded five Palestinians in Jenin and in confrontations near the cities of Ramallah and Nablus.
     
    In the Gaza Strip, Israel's air force bombed four militant targets early on Tuesday in response to rocket fire at southern Israel. There were no reported casualties in those incidents.
     
    On Monday, Netanyahu said the effort to retrieve the three teenagers was complicated and that Israelis “must be prepared for the possibility it could take time”.
     
    Many Israelis have shown solidarity with the teens' families on social media sites and have held public prayer vigils.
     
    One of the youth's mothers, Rachel Fraenkel, thanked her compatriots on a nationally televised broadcast, saying: “We just wish to hug our children home, Naftali, Eyal Gil-Ad. We love you, we miss you, please be strong, hold on, be strong.”
     
    Giora Eiland, a retired Israeli general and former national security adviser, said the abductions provided an opportunity to target Hamas in operations that could undermine a new Palestinian unity government formed after Abbas reconciled with his Islamist rivals in April after years of feuding.
     
    Infuriated by the surprise intra-Palestinian alliance, Netanyahu called off U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Abbas.
     
    “The fragile links between the (Abbas-led Palestinian) Authority and Hamas could become more of a crack,” Eiland told Israel Radio, a day after the Islamists condemned as a “knife in the back” PA efforts to help the Israelis locate the teenagers.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora