Blame Hamas, blame the PA, punish all prisoners

June 18, 2014
Sarah Benton

This posting has these new items on the responses to the disappeared boys:

1) PHROC: PHROC Condemns Collective Punishment of Palestinians in Response to the Disappearance of Three Israeli Settlers, the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council names and denounces Israel’s collective pinishment;
2) Ma’an news: Israel using ‘collective punishment’ in search for teens, mass arrests;
3) Al Monitor: Israel collectively punishes Palestinians for kidnapping, Daoud Kuttab reports on the new restrictions which affect all Palestinians;
4) JPost: In response to kidnappings, Israel to stiffen conditions of Hamas prisoners, security cabinet aims to break-up Hamas/Fatah deal by punishing prisoners;
5) JPost: Package of punitive measures against security prisoners follows kidnapping, the Israeli Prison Service says it has been ordered to impose harsher restrictions on Palestinian prisoners, June 18th;
6) Ma’an news: New series of punishments against Palestinian prisoners , new punishments listed, June 20th;
7) CSM: Israel steps up arrests amid search for kidnapped teens, Chelsea Sheasley provides a useful press round-up;

This LA Times photo is captioned “Israeli soldiers search for three missing teenagers near Hebron, in the West Bank” though whether they are searching or patrolling in a show of strength is not clear. Photo by Abir Sultan / European Pressphoto Agency

PHROC Condemns Collective Punishment of Palestinians in Response to the Disappearance of Three Israeli Settlers

From Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC)
June 17, 2014
Ref. No.: 53/2014

The recent wave of arrests, attacks, killings and total closure of large parts of the West Bank following the disappearance of three Israeli settlers is a clear form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Since the disappearance of the three settlers on Thursday 12 June, Israeli forces in Jalazoun refugee camp, north of Ramallah, have killed a Palestinian man, Ahmad Sabarin, 20, and have arrested approximately 200 Palestinians across the West Bank. In total, eight members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) have been arrested since 12 June, including the head of the PLC. One PLC member has since been released. On 15 June three people were injured, including an eight-year old boy, when the Israeli military blew up the entrance of a house in Hebron during an arrest operation. In addition, on 16 June six Palestinian were injured at Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah, including Yazan Yacoub, 17, who was, according to reports, shot in the chest and abdomen with a live bullet, critically wounding him.

As the Occupying Power, Israel is obligated to carry out its search for the missing settlers in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). IHRL imposes an absolute obligation on Israel to respect the right to life of Palestinians by ensuring that the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is carried out in a manner that minimises damage and injury and respects and preserves human life. IHRL further prohibits arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence and affords all persons the right to liberty and security of person, which demands a legal basis for each and every individual arrest. Furthermore, all persons that are arrested must be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity.

Although some of the measures carried out by the Israeli forces in large parts of the West Bank may have a link to the investigation into the disappearances, the methods employed are indiscriminate in their nature and are undermining the fundamental rights of the persons concerned. Furthermore, these restrictive measures are being carried out based on mere speculation regarding both the identity of those responsible for the disappearances and their location. As such, these measures indicate Israel’s intention to impose punitive measures against large portions of the Palestinian population in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting reprisals against protected persons and their property, as well as collective punishment.

Furthermore, Israeli government threats to expel Hamas personnel from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip based on allegations that the organisation is responsible for the settlers’ disappearances not only amounts to indiscriminate collective punishment but also violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons in occupied territory. The violation of this provision amounts to a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and as such may constitute a war crime under Article 8(2)(a)(vii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) condemns Israel’s disregard for its obligations under international law and its use of reprisals against the Palestinian population in carrying out its investigations into the disappeared youths. PHROC calls upon High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to uphold their obligation to ensure respect for the Conventions as established under Common Article 1, by taking concrete measures to pressure Israel to halt its violations of international law.

PHROC further condemns the Israeli government-initiated law proposal to permit force-feeding of hunger strikers. Currently, over 125 Palestinian detainees and prisoners have been on hunger strike in protest against Israel’s illegal practice of Administrative Detention. Force feeding is defined as torture by the World Medical Association and has been condemned by the United Nations (UN), including by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. As such, PHROC calls upon the international community to condemn the law publicly and to urge the Israeli government to withdraw it. Moreover, PHROC calls on Israel to heed to the demands of the hunger strikers by bringing its illegal practice of administrative detention to an immediate end.

Searching in Hebron

Israel using ‘collective punishment’ in search for teens

By Ma’an news
17/18 June, 2014

BETHLEHEM — Israel’s massive arrest campaign, closure of large parts of West Bank cities, and the recent killing of a Palestinian youth in al-Jalazun refugee camp constitute collective punishment, Palestinian rights groups said Tuesday.

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council, a collection of human rights groups, issued a statement calling on Israel to respect the “right to life” and ensure that the use of force does not endanger civilians.

“As the Occupying Power, Israel is obligated to carry out its search for the missing settlers in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” PHROC said.

The methods being used to locate the youths are “indiscriminate in their nature” and “undermine the fundamental rights” of those affected, the groups said.

“Furthermore, these restrictive measures are being carried out based on mere speculation regarding both the identity of those responsible for the disappearances and their location.”

“These measures indicate Israel’s intention to impose punitive measures against large portions of the Palestinian population in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting reprisals against protected persons and their property, as well as collective punishment,” the statement added.

Since three Israeli youths disappeared from an area near the settlement of Gush Etzion late Thursday, Israeli forces have arrested approximately 200 Palestinians, including eight members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Israeli soldiers conduct a search patrol in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus June 16, 2014. Photo provided by IDF Spokesperson/Flash 90. Balata is the largest refugee camp in the West Bank; with 30,000 residents in an area of 0.25 square kilometres, it is one of the most densely populated.

Early Monday, Israeli soldiers raided al-Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah to make arrests. When Palestinians threw stones at the soldiers, they responded by opening fire and fatally wounding 20-year-old Ahmad Sabarin.

The day before, three people including a young child were injured when Israeli forces bombed open a door in Hebron.

PHROC condemned “Israel’s disregard for its obligations under international law and its use of reprisals against the Palestinian population in carrying out its investigations into the disappeared youths.”

Israel collectively punishes Palestinians for kidnapping

The Israelis have slapped travel bans on many Palestinians in the West Bank in response to the June 12 kidnapping of three young settlers.

By Daoud Kuttab, Al Monitor / Palestine Pulse
June 17, 2014

Seif Abu Arqoub, 5, was born in Amman while his parents were students at the University of Jordan. Upon completion of their degrees, the Arqoub family returned to Nablus, the hometown of Abla, Seif’s mother. Abla teaches at Al-Najah University in Nablus and Mohammed, Seif’s father, is a lecturer at Birzeit University. Except for short visits to his grandparents’ home in the Hebron district town of Dura, the young Abu Arqoub only knows Amman and Nablus.

But this week, the Abu Arqoub family has been collectively punished. A planned summer vacation before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan was abruptly canceled. Mohammed wrote on his Facebook page that because of his birth in the Hebron district, the family will not be allowed to leave via the Allenby Bridge to Jordan, the only border crossing that Palestinians in the West Bank are allowed to use. The collective punishment on all Hebronites comes as Israel takes revenge on the Palestinian population following the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers on June 12.

The travel ban on Hebronites is only one of many acts of collective punishment. Workers from Hebron with valid permits to work in Israel were banned entry into Israel and a huge dragnet took place throughout the occupied territories, arresting mostly known Hamas figures. Israel killed a 19-year-old Palestinian at the Jalazone refugee camp outside Ramallah during the arrest sweep. Abdel Aziz Dweik, speaker of the suspended Palestinian Legislative Council, is among those detained by Israel. Also among those arrested are former ministers, parliamentarians and former prisoners pardoned as part of a prisoner swap that included the exchange of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits occupying powers carrying out such acts of punishment. The 1949 convention states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

The focus on Hamas appears to be the result of an Israeli belief that such a well-planned kidnapping could not have been carried out by an amateur group. A previously unknown group, Ahrar al-Khalil (Free of Hebron) issued a communiqué taking responsibility for the kidnapping and vowing to use it to secure the release Palestinian prisoners. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly put the blame on Hamas and US Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to agree with this conclusion, saying, “Indications point to Hamas’ involvement.”

Israel’s extensive arrest campaign has three purposes. One is to help lessen public anger. For instance, a Facebook page in Hebrew calling for the execution of a “Palestinian terrorist every hour the teens are held” received over 15,000 likes within hours of its creation.

Israel also hopes for some intelligence information from those arrested to get an indication of the inner circle of those behind the kidnapping. Thus, Israel hopes it can use those arrested as bargaining chips in any future negotiations. This is what Israel did when Gilad Shalit was held by Palestinians and exchanged for Palestinian prisoners, many of whom had been arrested after the kidnapping.

If the Hamas connection proves to be true, it would reflect the feeling of political surrender that has been forced upon the Islamist movement in the reconciliation process with the PLO. The kidnapping of the young settlers in Hebron also comes as Israel refuses to concede to prisoners in administrative detention on hunger strike since April 26. Over 100 Palestinians have been striking to end the practice of arrest without charge or trial.

The settlers’ kidnapping also reflects a deep-seated anger by the Palestinian population in Hebron, which is routinely harassed by the youngest of settlers, denied use of their own roads and forced to rely on foreign volunteers to get their children to safely cross the street to school.

The kidnapping of the Israeli settlers points to an even greater problem that stems from the absence of any political horizon. With the failure of the Kerry initiative and the political retreat by Washington, the sense of hopelessness among Palestinians has been rising, making room for radical groups to try to prove that their violent ways are the only means that work with the Israeli occupiers.

Young Seif Abu Arqoub and his family, along with all Palestinians, will be trapped in Palestine this summer. But the really bad news is that both sides are trapped by policies that are contrary to the spirit of peace.

Unless the long-term goal of ending the occupation and giving Palestinians a sense of hope for the future is achieved, it is difficult to imagine that either side will enjoy peace and tranquility.

In response to kidnappings, Israel to stiffen conditions of Hamas prisoners

Israel is also engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts to delegitimize Hamas-Fatah unity pact, says official.

By Herb Keinon
June 17, 2014

Israel will stiffen the jail conditions for Hamas prisoners as a result of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens by the organization last week, the security cabinet decided Tuesday.

The decision comes following a marathon meeting held over two days — Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning — on the kidnappings and ways to turn up the pressure on Hamas.

The security cabinet heard in-depth briefings on the situation from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, and Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen.

The official said that in addition to the main operational goal, which is to bring the three kidnapped teens back to their families, Israel is also currently engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts to delegitimize the unity pact between Hamas and Fatah.

As part of this campaign, government officials are emphasizing the constant drumbeat of incitement in the Palestinian Authority’s official media and educational system against Israel, including calls for and encouragement of the kidnapping of Israelis.

A senior government official reiterated after the security cabinet meeting that Israel holds the Palestinian Authority and its leadership responsible for attacks that emanate from its territory.

IDF searches any home associated with any Hamas member, June 15, 2014, Hebron. Photo by Majdi Mohammed / AP.

The official also said that Israel sees Hamas as responsible for actually carrying out the kidnappings, and that Jerusalem does not differentiate between the different parts and factions inside the organization. This comment came as a result of some speculation that a splinter group inside Hamas may have carried out the kidnappings.

Package of punitive measures against security prisoners follows kidnapping

IPS spokeswoman: “They have less access to TV than they did before, but the measures are not a violation of their human rights or rights as prisoners.”

By Ben Hartman, JPost
June 18, 2014

The Israel Prison Services has slashed TV privileges and cut access to prison commissaries for security prisoners in the wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the West Bank last week, the IPS said Wednesday, in response to a report that they are banning the prisoners from watching the World Cup.

Sivan Weitzman, the spokesperson for the IPS, said that the measures are part of a package of means that they have been ordered to carry out over the past week. She added that the IPS “isn’t the one who makes the decisions on this. These are made on the governmental level we’re just the body that carries them out.”

She added that at no point did the IPS confiscate TV’s or appliances or cancel television privileges altogether, nor will such a step be taken. She did however say that “they have access to a lot less television channels than they did before but regardless, the measures we’re taking do not constitute a violation of their human rights or rights as prisoners.”

Earlier this week the IPS announced that family visits for security prisoners had been cancelled, though they said that it was not as a punitive measure rather that the security situation in the midst of the IDF operation in the West Bank would not allow for it.

The kidnapping took place over a month after a hunger strike was launched by nearly a hundred security prisoners jailed without charge on administrative detention. The 90 administrative detainees were joined in solidarity by a couple hundred other security prisoners, but the number has since steadily declined and as of Wednesday there were 90 prisoners still on hunger strike. Of these, 80 are administrative detainees being treated in Israeli hospitals.

Israeli soldiers walk during an operation in Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Israel’s army says it has arrested 41 more Palestinians in the West Bank, expanding searches for three missing Israeli teens who Israel believes Hamas kidnapped last week.

Israel uses search for kidnapped teens to crack down on Hamas

The search for three missing Israeli teenagers has expanded in scope: Israel is now openly targeting Hamas. 200 Palestinians arrested. [Wednesday in this report rom Los Angeles was Tuesday in the UK]

By Batsheva Sobelman, LA Times
June 17/18, 2014

Israel on Wednesday was pursuing a two-fold mission in the West Bank: Find three Israeli teenagers presumed to have been kidnapped last week and crack down on the Palestinian militant organization Hamas.

The three yeshiva students — Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrah — disappeared while hitchhiking home through the West Bank on Thursday night.

Yifrah managed to dial police and whisper, “We’ve been kidnapped,” police have said. But it was dismissed as a prank, giving abductors a head-start of several hours before the search began.

So far, there has been no credible claim of responsibility for the kidnapping.

Army vehicles line up for deployment across West Bank.

Israel has accused the Palestinian militant organization Hamas — “We know this for a fact,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

Hamas officials have praised the teens’ capture but have not said they were responsible.

Thousands of Israeli soldiers have been deployed to sweep the West Bank for the missing youths, focusing on the region around Hebron. A curfew has been declared in the area and roadblocks set up.

What began as a search operation has expanded in scope in recent days. Israel is now openly targeting Hamas. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon promised Wednesday to “exact a heavy price” against the organization.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters that Hamas would “hurt more every day” that the youths were held and would be made to understand that “membership in Hamas is a ticket to hell.”

So far, about 200 Palestinians have been arrested in a series of nightly raids, the latest ones around the city of Nablus and surrounding refugee camps.

As long as the teens remain captive, “Hamas will feel pursued, paralyzed and threatened,” army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. He added that the army was committed to resolving the kidnapping while “debilitating Hamas terrorist capabilities, its infrastructure and recruiting institutions.”

In addition to hunting down known fighters, the Israeli army has arrested members of the Palestinian Authority parliament and other civilians. It is also targeting organizations, such as charities, that Israel suspects Hamas uses to recruit operatives and channel money for attacks.

“The unfortunate circumstances have given Israel several advantages,” said Giora Eiland, an analyst and Israel’s former national security advisor.

One is the opportunity to crack down on Hamas in the West Bank, which Israel could not have done otherwise, he said.

The incident has also strained the already fragile relations between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The tensions have “widened into a real crack, raising questions about the future” of the recent reconciliation between them, Eiland said.

Palestinian intelligence officials reportedly share Israel’s assessment that Hamas, or elements of it, are behind the abduction.

Israeli media outlets quoted an unidentified Palestinian Authority official as saying that the unity accord with Hamas would be void if it is proved they are responsible.

Family members of the three missing youths met Wednesday at the home of the Frenkels in the Israeli community of Nof Ayalon, near the border with the West Bank. At a news conference, they expressed gratitude to all those taking part in the search and asked the public to continue praying for the boys.

Senior Israeli military and government officials have vowed to continue the West Bank operation as long as needed, advising patience.

Netanyahu again convened his security cabinet Wednesday to review Israel’s response to the abductions. Among other measures, it was decided to toughen conditions for Hamas prisoners jailed in Israel.

At a meeting in Tel Aviv with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, envoy for the so-called Mideast quartet, Netanyahu called on the international community to support Israel’s right to self-defense, condemn Hamas and urge Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to end the pact with the militant organization.

Some observers have noted that Abbas is challenged by strong public support for the kidnapping, which many Palestinians see as the only way to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jail.

The fate of the prisoners is an emotive issue for Palestinians. Their government includes a designated minister for prisoners affairs, and according to Israeli press reports, the Palestinian Authority pays more than $10 million a month to support current and former prisoners.

The issue is equally important to Israelis. Before the abduction, Israel’s refusal to release Palestinians convicted of murdering Israelis was one of the issues that brought U.S.-brokered peace talks to a halt.

Israel has long grappled with the sensitive topic of prisoner exchanges. Amid much public controversy, Israel has freed thousands of prisoners in heavily lopsided deals with Lebanese and Palestinian organizations. They included a 2011 agreement in which Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinians in exchange for one soldier, Gilad Shalit, held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for five years.

Some Israelies argue that the practice should end.

“Releasing terrorists is a concept that has exhausted itself,” Bennett said. “Three years ago we released 1,000 terrorists, and they understand kidnapping pays off. The cycle will never end if we continue,” he told reporters.

Sobelman is a special correspondent.

New series of punishments against Palestinian prisoners

By Ma’an news
June 20, 2014

RAMALLAH — Israeli Prison Services have begun a series of punishments against more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons in response to the disappearance of three Israeli teens in Hebron last week.

A report by the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs said that Israeli Prisons Services have determined a series of new rules against Palestinian prisoners as punishment for the disappearance, with the approval of the Israeli minister of internal security.

The punishments include:

1. Allowing visits only once every two months for Hamas-affiliated prisoners, and possibly all prisoners.
2. Shutting the canteen and lowering the allowed amount of money from 1000 NIS ($290) a month to 400 ILS ($116).
3. Prisoners allowed to go out into the prison yard for an hour in the morning and an hour in evening, instead of eight hours, in addition to applying a search device at the gate of the yard.
4. Hamas-affiliated prisoners are not allowed to receive newspapers.
5. Hamas-affiliated prisoners are not allowed to watch TV.
6. Guards are allowed to search prisoners while they are in the prison yard.
7. Non-hunger striking prisoners are not allowed to interact with hunger-striking prisoners.

More than 5,300 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails. Of these, more than 200 are being held indefinitely without charge or trial as part of a procedure called administrative detention.

Around 125 prisoners have been on hunger strike for nearly 60 days in protest against their administrative detention.

Patrolling Hebron June 15, 2014. Photo by Ammar Awad, Reuters.

Israel steps up arrests amid search for kidnapped teens

Israeli forces have detained more than 200 Palestinians, mostly Hamas activists, in their biggest crackdown on the militant group in years. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnappings last week. [Click the headline above to go to page with CSM video of the West Bank search.]

By Chelsea Sheasley, Christian Science Monitor
June 17, 2014.

Israeli soldiers arrested 41 Palestinians in the West Bank early on Tuesday while searching for three Israeli teenagers, Israel Defense Forces officials said, underscoring the military’s crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank while they search for the missing teens.

Israel blames Hamas for the disappearance of three seminary students who were hitchhiking in the West Bank last week. Israeli forces have detained more than 200 Palestinians, mostly Hamas activists, in “the biggest West Bank crackdown on the militant group in almost a decade,” according to the Associated Press.

The overnight search included about 1,000 soldiers, who shut down a shop manufacturing weapons, confiscated pistols, explosives, grenades, and ammunition, and seized computers belonging to a Hamas-affiliated group, according to Israel’s Haaretz. About half of the arrests were in Nablus, the West Bank city north of Hebron where earlier searches concentrated.

In a meeting Monday, officers decided “to expand the treatment of Hamas in the West Bank, and use the upcoming days to arrest anyone ‘infected’ with Hamas,” an unnamed senior military officer told Haaretz.

Hamas, an Islamist movement that does not recognize Israel’s right to existence, has neither accepted nor denied responsibility for the kidnapping, Reuters reports.

Also on Tuesday, the European Union condemned the kidnapping and called for the safe return of the three teenagers, identified as Eyal Yifrach,19, and Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16. Israel had criticized the EU for not speaking out against the incident earlier. The US, Canada, Great Britain, and Spain have all condemned the attack.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Christa Case Bryant, explains that Israel views the kidnappings as the “inevitable fruit” of the reconciliation deal announced in April between the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s criticism of the Palestinian Authority could undermine its close security cooperation with its security forces, the Monitor reported:

But Israel is also walking a fine line: Its coordination with Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank is widely credited with establishing a relative calm over the past few years by helping Israeli forces to hunt down militants and thwart attacks on Israelis.

In an environment where Israeli soldiers control the movement of Palestinians, and can detain suspects without charge for months on end, the PA’s coordination with Israeli security forces is deeply unpopular – particularly among Hamas supporters, who advocate armed resistance.

While Israel has sought help from PA security forces in tracking down the kidnappers, Hamas deeply disagrees with such security coordination though it does not appear to have the political leverage to stop it.

Tension is rising in the West Bank, where residents are angry that the search for three missing teens are making international headlines, while a Palestinian prisoner hunger strike and the detention of Palestinians by Israeli forces go unnoticed, The New York Times reports.

“Our children, the prisoners, more than 50 days they’re without food, and nobody talks about it. Because of this kidnapping, the whole world opens its mouth,” said Kayed Jaber, 49, a father of 10 [in Hebron]. “They have three boys missing,” he added, referring to Israel. “This is like they arrest 800,000 people in the Hebron area — look at the checkpoints.”

The local radio station played warlike anthems interspersed with bulletins about how many tanks were invading what neighborhood. In the Bab al Zawya district, Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets at a few youths hurling stones and rolling flaming tires. Along Peace Street, the main thoroughfare, sweet shops and cellphone stands, car dealerships and clothing boutiques all sat idle behind roll-down gates or wooden shutters.

Many said there had not been similar scenes since the violent second intifada in the early 2000s.

“We, as Palestinians, of course we are suffering collective punishment,” said Daoud Zatari, Hebron’s mayor. “If it will last long it will have devastating and severe consequences on the people, not only from the economic side. The life is miserable now. They are feeling they are living in a surrounded zone, as if we are all in a big jail.”

Fareed Hussain, L, mayor of Derby which is twinned with Hebron, with Dr Professor Douad Zatari, mayor of Hebron. April 17, 2014. Photo from Derby Telegraph

There are also rampant conspiracy rumors in the Palestinian territories, questioning whether the kidnapping actually occurred, the NY Times reports:

Leaders referred to the “alleged kidnapping” in some of their official statements, and social networks were filled with conspiracy theories of how Jewish settlers staged the event or the Israeli government was using it as a pretext to oust Hamas from the West Bank and thwart the Palestine Liberation Organization’s recent reconciliation with Hamas.

Ahmad Abu Eisheh, 27, noted that no credible claim of responsibility had yet emerged.

“Hamas announces when they kidnap,” said Mr. Abu Eisheh, who works at a cleaning company. “For sure it’s a film. They want to destroy the reconciliation.”

At the core of the dispute are “fears and frustrations on both sides,” the C.S. Monitor explains:

The incident highlights fears and frustrations on both sides, with Israelis deeply concerned about the security ramifications of Hamas rejoining the Palestinian government based in the West Bank, and Palestinians backing almost 300 prisoners on hunger strike due to Israel’s practice of holding them without charge for six months or longer.

With Israel’s track record of releasing Palestinian prisoners for kidnapped soldiers, such as the swap of 1,027 prisoners for Sgt. Gilad Shalit in 2011, many Palestinians advocate the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers or civilians as bargaining chips for justice.

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