The search for three Israeli teenagers kidnapped last Thursday while hitchhiking continues as Israeli forces mobilize throughout the West Bank in search of 16-year-olds Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach, closing off towns and searching homes and vehicles. Soldiers arrested more than 40 Palestinians in an overnight raid, the AP reports, bringing the total number of arrests to more than 200. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly blamed Hamas for the kidnappings—and Israeli forces targeted its members for arrest—but the terrorist organization has not claimed responsibility.
Tuesday’s arrests brought the total number of Palestinians detained since the teens disappeared Thursday to over 200, most of them Hamas activists, the biggest West Bank crackdown on the militant group in almost a decade. Israel has vowed to exact a heavy price from Hamas, saying the aim of the military operation goes beyond searching for the boys.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his Security Cabinet, a group of senior government ministers, to discuss the crisis. During the three-hour meeting, the ministers agreed to worsen the conditions of Hamas prisoners Israel is holding, said an official familiar with the deliberations.
The escalating tensions—plus the fact that one of the teens, Naftali Frankel, has dual American and Israeli citizenship—have made an already fraught situation highly combustible.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Consulate in in Jerusalem issued a travel warning to Americans visiting or living in Israel, urging them to avoid demonstrations if traveling through the West Bank.