Israeli troops have killed a Palestinian and arrested dozens overnight, including the parliament speaker, in a crackdown on Hamas which Israel accuses of kidnapping three teenagers.
With the manhunt for the missing youths in its fourth day on Monday, Israeli forces were focussing on the southern West Bank city of Hebron and surrounds, home to some 663,000 Palestinians.
The army says more than 150 Palestinians have been arrested in the search for the three youngsters Israel says were kidnapped by Hamas militants from a settlement bloc in the southern West Bank on Thursday night.
So far, there has been no formal claim of responsibility, with Hamas dismissing Israel’s accusations as “stupid”.
As thousands of troops pressed on with the biggest arrest operation in years, 19-year-old Ahmad Arafat Sabarin was shot dead in Jalazoun refugee camp north of Ramallah during clashes after soldiers entered the camp, Palestinian medics and security sources told AFP.
The army had no immediate confirmation of the shooting.
Among those detained was parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik, a Hamas member who lives in Hebron, the army and a Palestinian security official said.
“They have arrested the speaker and five other Hamas MPs in Hebron,” the Palestinian source told AFP.
Late on Sunday, troops blew up the door of a house in Hebron and arrested three people inside in a raid which lightly injured two children, Palestinian witnesses and medics told AFP.
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, the army’s official spokesman, said troops were focused on “enhancing intelligence and influencing those that participated, are involved or have knowledge of the whereabouts” of the three teenagers.
“We are determined to bring them home and bring the perpetrators of their abduction to justice,” he said in a statement.
The missing three are Gilad Shaer, 16, from Talmon settlement near Ramallah, Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon, and Eyal Ifrach, 19, from Elad, both in central Israel.
All three were studying at Jewish seminaries in the southern West Bank, and one is understood to hold a US passport.
As the hunt expanded, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to convene his security cabinet to discuss steps against Hamas, media reports said.
Netanyahu has stated the youths were kidnapped by “Hamas people”, and placed responsibility for their safe return on the shoulders of Mahmud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority which recently formed a pact with the Islamist group.
US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the reported abduction, saying “many indications point to Hamas’ involvement” and noting that it “has used kidnapping in the past”.
Overnight, Israeli warplanes struck targets in northern and southern Gaza after two rockets were fired at southern Israel, both of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the army said.
Palestinian medics said four people, including a three-year-old girl, were moderately wounded by shrapnel during the strike on northern Gaza.