Israeli soldiers on a search-and-arrest mission in the West Bank on Monday shot and killed a 24-year-old Palestinian at a refugee camp north of Ramallah, threatening heightened tensions in the region already in turmoil over the Palestinians’ newly reunified leadership.
Soldiers have arrested dozens of top Hamas activists from the militia that the Israeli leadership accuses of abducting three Israeli teenagers late Thursday. Hamas has denied any involvement in the youths’ disappearance.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said an Israeli foot patrol that entered Jalazoun refugee camp to arrest activists was confronted by dozens of residents who pelted them with stones.
The soldiers called for reinforcements, who opened fire at the protesters, killing Ahmad Sabareen with a bullet to the chest. Two others were injured in the gunfire and were reported by the center to be in fair condition.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, soldiers rounded up more than 40 Palestinians, including lawmakers and leaders in the Islamist Hamas movement.
At a news briefing with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Chief of Staff Benny Gant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be warning Israelis that finding the youths who went missing while hitchhiking home from the Palestinian city of Hebron could be a lengthy process.
“We are in the midst of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the possibility that it will take time,” Netanyahu said, vowing that any kidnappers would be found and brought to justice.
“Hamas will pay a heavy price for this incident,” Yaalon added.
Rights groups said most of those arrested overnight were from the Hebron area in the south of the West Bank, where the army is concentrating its search for the missing youths.
Ahrar Center for Detainees Studies and Human Rights said the army has rounded up almost 200 Palestinians, including 12 Hamas lawmakers and parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik, in three days of searching and targeting of Hamas militants. Hamas recently reconciled with the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority to restore unified representation of the West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip after a seven-year rift.
The Israel Defense Forces said troops detained more than 40 suspects in the Judea and Samaria regions of the West Bank early Monday.
The defense forces will continue their operations to find those who were responsible for the teens’ disappearance “or have knowledge of the whereabouts of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah. We are determined to bring them home and bring the perpetrators of their abduction to justice,” the IDF said in a statement.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he termed the kidnapping of the three Israelis as well as the Israeli “violations” in the occupied territories, pointing to the death of Sabareen.
Abbas said in a statement that the Palestinian security forces are trying to maintain order to prevent “a state of chaos and instability" from developing in the region.
Abbas telephoned Netanyahu to discuss the latest developments, the statement said.
Netanyahu responded with a message that he expects Abbas “to assist in returning the abducted youths and in apprehending the kidnappers.”
“The Hamas kidnappers came from territory under Palestinian Authority control and returned to territory under Palestinian Authority control,” Netanyahu wrote. “This incident exposes the true face of the terrorism that we are fighting against.”
Netanyahu warned Abbas that “the consequences of the partnership with Hamas must be understood; it is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and bad for the region.”
Times staff writer Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles contributed to this report.