Israel arrests more Palestinians in hunt for teens

Israeli security forces have arrested 10 more Palestinians in the West Bank as they press their search for three teenagers believed to have been kidnapped, the army said.

AFP| Last Updated: Jun 22, 2014, 09:59 AM IST

Jerusalem: Israeli security forces have arrested 10 more Palestinians in the West Bank as they press their search for three teenagers believed to have been kidnapped, the army said.

"Ten members of Hamas were arrested during the night, bringing the number of Palestinians arrested since the beginning of the operation to 340, 240 of whom are affiliated to Hamas," the army said in a statement on Saturday.

Israel accuses Hamas of kidnapping two 16-year-olds and a 19-year-old who went missing June 12 at a hitch-hiking stop in the West Bank, an allegation the Islamist group has dismissed.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who has twice condemned the presumed kidnapping, told journalists on Saturday: "No one knows who is responsible, and Israel is accusing Hamas when it has no proof."

Public radio said those arrested included people who had been released from Israeli jails as part of the 2011 deal to free soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured and held by Hamas for five years.

The army declined to confirm that report.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation said some 50 former prisoners had been placed back in administrative detention by Israel and 380 Palestinians had been arrested since June 12.

Israeli media said teams of firemen and police specialised in rescue operations were in the Hebron area, searching wells, reservoirs and caves.

The search was ongoing inside Hebron city itself, where a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was killed on Friday by the army, as well as in Ramallah where the army said it had raided the premises of the Hamas television channel.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, a 60-year-old man died of a heart attack as Israeli troops searched outside his house, Palestinian security sources said.

Overnight Israel carried out air raids on the Gaza Strip in response to five rockets fired from the Palestinian territory into southern Israel on Saturday, the army said in a statement.

Palestinian sources told AFP on Sunday that the Israeli raids caused substantial damage around the town of Rafah but no injuries.

Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour called upon the international community to intervene in order to protect a civilian population which is the victim of "collective punishment".

The missing Israeli teenagers are Gilad Shaer, 16, from Talmon settlement near Ramallah; Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon, and Eyal Ifrach, 19, from Elad, both in central Israel.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel without causing any damage.