JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has “unequivocal proof” that Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping of three Israeli teens more than a week ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu, speaking Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, said Israel would share the proof and information with several countries and soon will make it public.
Airing the information, the Israeli leader said, will put remarks by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Saudi Arabia “to the test in practice.” Abbas called for the return of the teens and said he was making an effort to locate them.
“His remarks will be tested not only by actions to return the boys home but by his willingness to dissolve the unity government with Hamas, which abducted the youths and calls for the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu told United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the weekend that Israel holds information about the kidnapping that points to Hamas. Ban said through a spokesman earlier in the week that there was no “concrete evidence” that the youths were kidnapped.
The prime minister met Friday with the parents of the teens, who were abducted from a junction in Gush Etzion, located south of Jerusalem, on the evening of June 12. Netanyahu told the parents of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel that locating the youths takes precedence over everything.
“This is the principal goal of our operational and intelligence activity, and all of the appropriate units are working on this objective,” Netanyahu said. “We have reinforced units in the field and we are making great efforts to reach the boys.”
Over the weekend, Israeli troops and security forces made a widespread search and rescue operation in the western Hebron area.
Since the beginning of the operation to find the teens, Israeli forces have detained some 340 suspects, of which 250 are associated with the Hamas terrorist group, Israel said.
Four Palestinians have been killed in recent days, including a man near Nablus on Sunday morning who reportedly was mentally unstable. A 14-year-old boy was killed Friday near Hebron.
Netanyahu at the Sunday meeting called the deaths “necessary for self-defense.”
“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,” he said.
Abbas over the weekend called on Netanyahu to condemn the killings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers in the wake of his condemnation of the kidnappings.