Hamas leader Meshaal: ‘We have no knowledge of the kidnapping but we applaud the kidnappers’.
Vice chairman of Hamas political bureau, Haniyeh: ‘The 3rd intifada has already started’
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal addressed for the first time Monday the kidnapping of three Israeli teens 11 days ago, saying Hamas has no information regarding the kidnapping. Meshaal also said: “If, indeed, any Palestinian group is behind the kidnapping, those who did it must be saluted.”
In an interview with Al-Jazeera Meshaal, who lives in Qatar, said he “congratulates whomever kidnapped them [the teens] because the Palestinian prisoners should be released.”
He also rejected the Palestinian claim that the kidnapping is an Israeli invention.
Meshaal explained that Hamas is composed of a political arm and a military arm and the political arm cannot give orders to the military arm.
Meshaal also addressed the Israeli claim that he himself gave a green light to the kidnapping during a speech in Doha, Qatar last month, saying the military arm knows what to do and dose not wait for TV speeches in order to act.
“The Palestinian people lives under an occupation. All we want is to free our land. Israel will pay for the occupation of Palestinian lands. Netanyahu’s own actions are responsible for the kidnapping,” Hamas leader said, adding current Palestinian Authority’s cooperation with Israel in the search for the missing teens is “a crime.”
Vice chairman of Hamas political bureau former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said earlier that a third intifada (violent uprising) had started on Monday, according to AFP, citing ongoing unrest in the Palestinian Authority (PA) as Israel’s cracks down on Hamas in the West Bank.
“We’re not saying the intifada will start; we’re saying it has started already in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria – ed.], and no one can stop it,” Haniyeh told journalists in Gaza. “The enemy (Israel) cannot put a stop to the escalation of the resistance.”
Nature of operation to return kidnapped teens to change
Meanwhile, 11 days into the search for the missing youths, and after exhaustive searches of the areas in the West Bank where they were thought to have been kept, the military may be preparing to change the nature of the operation. Senior politicians who spoke with top defense ministry and army officials believe the search will focus mainly on intelligence gathering, according to respected Israeli daily Haaretz’s defense analyst, Amos Harel.
In another development, the mother of one of the kidnapped youths, Rachel Frenkel, will address a Geneva conference on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, to urge international support for efforts to locate her son and his two friends.
In the West Bank, the Israeli military operation to find the three youths missing since June 12, continued Sunday night, resulting in the arrest of 37 Palestinians. Israel Defense Forces units searched 80 homes over night and raided seven buildings said to be connected to Hamas operations.
The new arrests have brought the number of Palestinians detained in the 11-day operation to around 400.
According to a report in Haaretz, 200 of those arrested will be issued administrative detention orders, allowing the army to hold them without pressing charges.
Since the beginning of Operation Brother’s Keeper, at least five Palestinians have been killed in clashes with the Israel Defense Forces.
The deaths, as well as the mass arrests and widespread closures in the West Bank, have sparked criticism from the international community. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, spoke to Netanyahu on Sunday and told him that he was concerned about the wave of violence and mass arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank in past days, a result of the IDF offensive.
Netanyahu stressed that “we have no intention of deliberately harming anyone but our forces are acting as necessary for self-defense and from time to time there are victims or casualties on the Palestinian side as a result of the self-defense actions of our soldiers.”
Also in Sunday Israeli leaders praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his clear condemnation of the kidnapping.
Netanyahu said in an interview with NBC, that Abbas’s comments in Saudi Arabia last week — in which he called for the Israelis to be freed — were “good.”
“I think it was good that he said that, and I think it would be tested now by his willingness to stop the incitement against Israel and the glorification of terrorists,” Netanyahu said.
President Shimon Peres was more effusive in his praise to Abbas, telling a group of Jewish journalists on Sunday that the Palestinian leader was “risking his life” to take a principled position against terrorism and calling him “the best partner Israel has ever had, and has now.”
“I have known him for 20 years. I think he’s a man of his word. I think he’s a man of courage,” Peres added.
Household items used to hide weapons
On Sunday, an elite Israeli army unit uncovered a weapons production lab, weapons cache and an extensive network of underground tunnels during a series of raid on Palestinian homes.
“We found grenades, which are as deadly as industrially produced grenades, homemade explosives, and weapons labs,” an IDF spokesperson told Israeli media.
“We were not surprised. We knew this existed in homes where families live. On the first floor, the family resides, and on the third floor is a weapons production lab,” he added.
The army unit reportedly discovered the underground structures and tunnels hidden in everyday household appliances such as washing machines.
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