(Washington, D.C.) — The Israeli Defense Forces and intelligence services are presently engaged in a massive operation in the West Bank, as Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government pursue four major objectives:
- To find and safely rescue the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped by Hamas last week — Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16 and Naftali Frankel, 16.
- To use the moment to arrest hundreds of Hamas leaders, agents and operatives and systematically degrade or dismantle the Hamas terror network being built in the West Bank.
- To make it clear to the world and to the Palestinian leadership that Hamas is a dangerous, Radical Islamic jihadist terror organization, like al Qaeda and ISIS that even kidnaps children
- To convince the Palestinian Authority to break its recently-established unity agreement with Hamas and join Israel in destroying the Hamas terror network.
The first two are military objectives. The second two are diplomatic and public relations objectives.
Please pray for these boys to be found quickly, and safely returned to their families. Please pray the Lord also comforts them and their families and friends at this critical time. And pray that Israeli and Palestinian leaders use this moment to work together. There are some signs this is happening already.
What’s fascinating is to see the reaction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Recently, Abbas signed a unity agreement with Hamas, which many analysts — myself included — said was a serious problem. Why? “Because Hamas is a radical terrorist organization,” I noted in a column on June 3rd. “Its 1988 charter makes clear that it is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood; forbids all peace talks; calls for the annihilation of Israel by armed, violent jihad; seeks to impose Sharia law on every man, woman and child in the Holy Land; and would force all Jews and Christians to convert to Islam or be branded an infidel and suffer.
But on a visit this week to Saudi Arabia, Abbas strongly called for the boys to be released and even denounced Hamas as trying to destroy the Palestinian Authority (PA).
“Those who perpetrated this act want to destroy us [the Palestinians],” Abbas said, according to the Times of Israel. “The three young men are human beings just like us and must be returned to their families.”
“It is in our interest to have security coordination with Israel because that would help protect us,” Abbas added, noting: “I say it frankly, we will never have another intifada — that would destroy us.”
Israeli media reports indicate that PA security forces are working closely with the Israelis, both to find the teens and capture Hamas operatives. After several years of deeply discouraging relations between Netanyahu and Abbas and their respective governments, we are currently watching the clearest moment of shared sympathy and strategic cooperation between the two. That’s not to say such cooperation will last, but for the moment, at least, it is both noteworthy and encouraging.
“Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who was set to meet with the families of abducted Israeli teens Gil-ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel on Wednesday, was not expected to have much to say,” reports Israel Hayom, Israel’s largest circulation newspaper. “The military’s premise remains the same — until proven otherwise, the three are alive. The nagging question, however, remains the same: if the three are alive, why have their abductors refrained, so far, from negotiating for their release?”
The Shin Bet security agency continues to “shake the trees” across the West Bank, arresting anyone affiliated with Hamas or any other nefarious organization, and anyone ever suspected of terrorism, arms trafficking, or any other related activity.
Every intelligence asset is being tapped and everyone is being questioned, in the hopes that someone would be able to provide information that would lead to the teens’ whereabouts, as well as to their abductors.
The one thing that has become clear almost immediately is that this was the work of a highly organized terror cell, and that the abduction was meticulously planned….
Meanwhile, Israel is systematically working to undercut Hamas’ grip on the West Bank. The directive stretches beyond just the terror group’s operational infrastructure, and includes its political and financial instruments as well.
With over 200 operatives arrested so far, the IDF crackdown on Hamas is massive, and the 300,000 residents of the Hebron area, which has been surrounded since Saturday, are feeling the pressure. They are likely to feel it even more as the Islamic holiday of Ramadan draws near, but despite Israel’s hopes, it is highly unlikely that the area’s residents would pressure the abductors to bring this affair to its end.
Touring the Central Command on Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told his officers that there was no definitive timetable for the operation.
A senior officer said, “We have at least a week’s-worth of work cut out for us, during which we will continue to pressure Hamas.”….
Meanwhile, the Shin Bet’s Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria departments are stretched thin, for the first time since 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield.
The scope of IDF forces deployed on the ground in the West Bank is also the biggest in over a decade.
The directive, as GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon defined it Tuesday, has remained the same — “undermine Hamas both operationally and strategically.”
- Abbas: Kidnappers want to destroy us; bring back the boys — during strongest condemnation yet, PA president says teens ‘are human beings just like us and should be returned to their families.’ (Ynet News)
- As IDF sweeps West Bank, Gaza residents prepare for war — Coastal enclave widely accepts that Hamas was involved in the kidnapping and braces for a harsh Israeli response; Shin Bet said to threaten Gaza man allegedly linked to abduction with a missile strike (Times of Israel)
- Speech by Hamas chief Mashaal might have been signal for kidnapping, say security sources (Jerusalem Post)
- Israeli forces arrest 65 Palestinian suspects overnight, raising number of total arrests since Thursday’s kidnapping to 240, including 51 Palestinians freed in Schalit deal re-arrested. Also, civil Administration raids Hamas-linked radio stations in Judea and Samaria, citing incitement to violence and terror funding (Israel Hayom)
- Over 30,000 pray for kidnapped teens at Western Wall (Times of Israel)
- Netanyahu urges international community to condemn Hamas — Hamas is ‘not only committed to murdering Israelis, it’s committed to kidnapping children,’ the prime minister tells Quartet representative Tony Blair (Ynet News)
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