Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday to dismantle the Hamas-Fatah unity government, after Tel Aviv identified two well-known Hamas operatives in the West Bank as the central suspects in the recent disappearance of three Israeli teenagers.
“A short time after the kidnapping, I said that those who perpetrated this activity were terrorists of Hamas,” The Times of Israeli newspaper quoted Netanyahu as saying at an Israeli Air Force graduation ceremony. “And indeed today the security services of Israel have published the names of two of the perpetrators of this heinous crime.”
He added: “I now expected President Abbas, who said important things in Saudi Arabia, to stand by those words and to break his pact with the Hamas terrorist organization that kidnaps children and calls for the destruction of Israel.”
In a statement, Israel’s Shin Bet security service identified the men as Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh, the Associated Press reported. It said both men are activists from the Hamas militant group in the West Bank city of Hebron, near where the youths disappeared on June 12.
Israel has accused Hamas of kidnapping the three teens, who disappeared as they were hitchhiking home. But until Thursday, it had provided no evidence to support the claim. It said both Qawasmeh, who was born in 1985, and Abu Aisha, who was born in 1981, have served time in Israeli prisons.
Netanyahu has made similar calls throughout the crisis, saying Abbas cannot claim to be seeking peace while also having an alliance a group committed to Israel’s destruction. Hamas, which Israel and the West consider a terrorist group, has no formal role in the government, and Abbas has said the Cabinet remains committed to his policies.
Following the disappearance of the teens, Israel launched its broadest ground operation in the West Bank in nearly a decade, rounding up nearly 400 Palestinians, most of them Hamas activists. The search for the teens - Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship - has become an obsession in Israel, with intensive media coverage and prayer vigils.
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