IDF Cautions Patience as Troops Scour West Bank for Kidnapped Teens
As thousands of Israeli troops comb through Palestinian Authority controlled towns and villages looking for three Israeli teens kidnapped a week ago, officers leading the door-to-door search in Operation Brother’s Keeper say they’re “not counting the days.”
“It’s a complex operation, and one that demands patience,” one senior officer told Israel’s Walla news site.
Another 30 Palestinian suspects were rounded up overnight Wednesday, two of whom had been released as part of the 1,000 who were traded for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011. Several hundred others, among them senior Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament, have been detained in the 24-7 sweeps.
So far, security forces, including the Shin Bet and Israel Police, have searched 900 structures and locations, officials said, in the search for Gilad Shaar, 19, Eyal Yifrach, 16, and Naftali Frankel, 16.
Israel believes that Hamas terrorists grabbed the trio of yeshiva students as they waited at a hitchhiking post in the Gush Etzion region at about 10:30 pm last Thursday night.
“You’ve got to adjust your expectations; this type of mission demands a lot of determination and it takes time,” the officer said.
“In this operation, you have to keep up the pace of the work, just like after the terror attack at Itamar,” the officer noted, adding that “The terrorists came from nearby Awarta, and it took more than two weeks to get to them.”
In the attack on the night of March 11th, 2011, two teenage cousins from Awarta scaled the security fence surrounding the small Jewish village. They crawled through the window of the Fogel home and, once inside, murdered parents Udi and Ruth, and their children: 11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad and 3-month-old Hadas.
Three children survived: 14-year-old Tamar, 10-year-old Roi and 4-year-old Yishai.
The pair of killers are serving multiple life sentences for the murders.
“So here, as well, there a major intelligence effort going on, but it won’t work without patience,” the officer said. “We’re not in the Yom Kippur war; this is a very significant terror attack and it takes time to break through the captors’ circle [of secrecy].”
On Wednesday, meeting with troops in the field engaged in the intensive searches, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz told them to search “as if each of the boys were a member of your own family.”
Search “as if each boy was in your team, your company, your battalion,” Gantz encouraged the group of soldiers as they sat beneath tented camouflage netting.
Meanwhile, on a visit on Thursday to the IDF’s Central Command in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly blamed Hamas for the teens’ abduction.
Saying Israel is “doing everything in our power to bring back our three kidnapped teenagers,” the PM asserted that “They were kidnapped by Hamas. We had no doubt of that. It’s absolutely certain. Hamas repeatedly has called for the kidnap and murder of Israeli citizens.”
Netanyahu called the Islamist group an “organization that is designated as a terror organization by many countries, and it is a terror organization that is committed to Israel’s destruction.
“I expect President Abbas to dissolve the union with this murderous terrorist organization. I think that’s important for our common future,” Netanyahu concluded, according to a statement released by his office.