JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday telephoned Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and said he expected him to help ensure the safe return of three kidnapped teenagers, a statement said.
Abbas’s office also issued a statement condemning both the kidnapping of the three youths and the results of a massive Israeli crackdown to find the perpetrators. “I expect you to help in the return of the kidnapped youths and the capture of the kidnappers,” Netanyahu told the Palestinian leader.
It was their first telephone conversation in nearly a year, and came as Israeli forces conducted the biggest arrest operation in years, focusing predominantly on the Islamist Hamas movement which Netanyahu has accused of kidnapping the three youths in the southern West Bank. “The Hamas kidnappers went out from territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority and returned to territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority,” Netanyahu told him. The youths’ disappearance came 10 days after the establishment of a new Palestinian government pieced together by Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas following a unity agreement between rival leaders in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel has furiously denounced the reconciliation accord, with Netanyahu warning Abbas that an alliance with Hamas spelt nothing but trouble. “It is important to understand the implications of the partnership with Hamas — it is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and it is bad for the region,” he said. Abbas’s office did not immediately confirm the telephone conversation, but issued a statement in which he condemned the kidnapping and also hit out at the massive Israeli crackdown aimed at finding those responsible.
“The Palestinian presidency... condemns the series of events that happened last week, beginning with the kidnapping of three Israeli youths,” it said, but also denouncing a massive wave of Israeli arrests during which a young Palestinian was killed near Ramallah overnight. “The presidency reaffirms the importance of neither side resorting to violence,” it said, also hailing the efforts of the Palestinian security forces in “keeping the peace” and preventing the territories from being “dragged into chaos and instability”.
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