Israel in Sweeping Search for Teens with Mass Arrests
   2014-06-16 16:49:30    Xinhua      Web Editor: Jiang

Israeli soldiers take positions during a raid in the West Bank refugee camp of Jalazon, north of Ramallah, early on June 16, 2014. The army says more than 150 Palestinians have been arrested in the search for the three youngsters who were snatched from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the southern West Bank on June 12, with Israel pointing the finger at Hamas. [Issam Rimawi/Imagine China]

Dozens of Hamas members, including lawmakers and senior operatives, were arrested in raids across the West Bank overnight Monday, as security forces stepped up efforts to retrieve three Israeli teenagers abducted by militants last Thursday.

The military said that over 40 Palestinian suspects had been arrested, among them the former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Aziz Duwaik, bringing the number of detainees since Saturday to about 150.

Duwaik, who previously served a three-year sentence in an Israeli jail, was arrested in his Hebron home. Other senior Hamas figures apprehended were named as Bassem al-Za'arir, Samir al-Qadi and Azzam Salhab, among others, Israeli media said. It noted that almost the entire Hamas' leadership in the West Bank was now in custody.

According to reports, Israel is seeking to deport some of the detainees to the Gaza Strip and elsewhere.

The arrests came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday morning that Hamas perpetrated the kidnapping of the teens, who disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank late Thursday night.

"Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas, the same Hamas that Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) has forged a unity government with," Netanyahu told cabinet ministers.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed Netanyahu's claims, calling them "stupid."

Two Palestinians were reportedly wounded Sunday night in the city of Hebron when Israeli troops tasked with arresting them fired a missile at the house they were hiding in. Unconfirmed reports early Monday said a Palestinian demonstrator was killed in a clash with troops near Ramallah.

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