Israel will continue its large-scale military operation in the West Bank, its security cabinet decided on Wednesday. The campaign is ostensibly a search for three missing illegal settlers who disappeared in the south of the occupied territory two weeks ago.
“The security and political affairs cabinet held a meeting on Wednesday evening,” said a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. “It decided to continue the widespread operations that will find the three young men who were kidnapped.” The three disappeared on June 12 from the settlement of Gush Etzion, which is located north of Hebron. Israel has blamed the Palestinian Authority for not protecting them.
Since the settlers’ disappearance, the Israeli army has been waging a widespread arrest campaign against Palestinians across the West Bank. Hundreds of Palestinian have been taken prisoner, most of whom are senior officials and members of Hamas.
No Palestinian faction has claimed responsibility for what is presumed to be the abduction of the settlers, although Netanyahu holds Hamas responsible. This has been rejected by the Islamic Resistance Movement.
The Israeli cabinet meets every Sunday but may also hold emergency meetings on any other day. It is the highest security body in Israel. Chaired by the prime minister, its members include Israel’s ministers of defence, justice, homeland security, the economy, finance, communications and home front defence. Senior security and military officers also attend.