Fierce West Bank battle over missing teens

Three Palestinians wounded in Jenin clashes following Israeli arrest raid over three missing Israeli teenagers.

    Israeli soldiers have clashed with Palestinians during an arrest raid in the fiercest confrontation so far in the week-long search for three missing Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank.

    Hospital officials said on Thursday three Palestinians suffered bullet wounds in the overnight clashes in Jenin. There were no reported Israeli casualties.

    The Israeli army said in a statement that about 300 Palestinians took to the streets when the soldiers entered the city at about 2am local time. The military claimed they were attacked with explosives, rocks and gunfire.

    "The soldiers responded with live fire, identifying hits," the statement said, adding that 30 "terror suspects" were detained in West Bank, bringing to 280 the number of Palestinians taken into custody over the past week.

    The Reuters news agency photographers in Jenin heard heavy gunfire during the night but were kept away from the scene of the clashes by the Israeli army.

    Alleged abductions

    Gil-Ad Shaer and US-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, disappeared last Thursday as they were hitchhiking near a Jewish settlement.

    Since then, Israeli raids have spread from house-to-house searches in Hebron to raids across the West Bank of institutions believed to provide funding and other support for Hamas that Israel accuses of the abductions.

    At Bir Zeit University, near the Palestinian town of Ramallah, Israeli soldiers on Thursday seized Hamas posters and flags from a student group affiliated with Hamas.

    The military said that so far, soldiers had searched about 900 locations. There has been no word from the missing teens nor any public claim of responsibility or ransom demands - including by Hamas. Hamas however has not issued any denial of involvement.

    Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas roundly condemned the kidnappers on Wednesday and promised to hold to account those responsible.

    His words in turn were denounced by Hamas and other factions, who accused him of betraying the national cause.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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