Jerusalem: Israeli security forces arrested 30 Palestinians in predawn raids in the West Bank as they continued searching for three Jewish youths abducted in the area a week ago, the Israeli military said Thursday.
Previously, some 280 Palestinians have been rounded up since the manhunt began last Friday.
A majority of those detained are affiliated with Islamist militant group Hamas, which Israel has accused of carrying out the abductions. Of these, 53 were once jailed in Israel, and freed in a prisoner swap deal in 2011.
Alongside the arrests, Israeli forces staged raids on around 100 locations in the city of Hebron and elsewhere in the West Bank, including 10 Hamas-linked civilian institutions known as Da`awa, which are used to promote their ideology and channel funds, as well as the offices of a student union at Birzeit University, Xinhua reported citing the army.
Ghassan al-Khatib, the deputy chairman of the university, condemned the arrests, saying the soldiers did not find anything and just confiscated some documents that belonged to the university.
The week-long operation, which involves the police, Shin Bet security service and intelligence units, constitutes the largest crackdown by Israel on Hamas`s West Bank operations in a decade.
Clashes erupted at several West Bank locales raided by Israeli forces overnight, including in the Jenin refugee camp, where residents hurled improvised bombs and opened fire at the troops who answered with riot dispersal weapons and live firing, the army said.
No injuries were reported among the Israelis. Two Palestinians were reportedly wounded in the return fire, Israeli media reported.
In Nablus, Israeli forces detained several protestors who hurled rocks and explosives at them as they were exiting the city.
No claims of responsibility for abducting the teenagers have been verified nor demands been made. The teens, who attended a male religious seminary, went missing while hitchhiking near Hebron June 12.
Military and defence officials said the massive search operations would continue based on the assumption that the youth are still alive.
Meanwhile, Hamas movement spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said in a press statement that the Israeli allegations on the disappearance of the three Israelis "are all lies and fabricated".