The IDF arrested 64 Palestinians overnight Tuesday, including 51 Hamas members who were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal as Operation Brother's Keeper entered its sixth day.
Through Wednesday, 240 people were arrested as part of the Israeli military's operation to retrieve the three teens who went missing in the West Bank on Thursday night, including 180 Hamas operatives; some 800 structures have been searched.
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The 51 were part of a group of 1,027 Palestinians released in 2011 from Israeli prisons in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza terrorists in a cross-border raid in 2006.
IDF forces also raided the offices of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa radio station in Ramallah and the TransMedia communications company in Hebron. Military sources said that the objective of the raid is to collect documents and other materials that incriminate and link the movement to terror activities in the West Bank.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised IDF forces for the complex operation they carried out last night.
"Last night's operation in which Hamas terrorists – including many of those who were released under the agreement for the return of Gilad Shalit – sends an important message and is one in a series of operations that will continue in order to bring the abducted youths home and strike at Hamas in Judea and Samaria."
A senior military source said earlier Wednesday morning: "We operated in the entire West Bank: 300,000 people are under siege or closure, and this is beginning to hit home after eight years of relative well-being."
The military source added that those released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange are obligated to check in with security forces. "They breached the terms of their release and are now being questioned. This is a significant event. (Forces) have also shut down checkpoints, including in the area of Beit Hagai, which have been open up until now."
The IDF also operated against seven 'Dawa' institutions, purportedly charitable Palestinian organizations widely seen as a front for terror activity.
The Israeli military gave details regarding the location of IDF's overnight activity. "We operated in Jenin and Qabatiya in Samaria, Surif, Yatta and As Samu'. Some altercations were involved during the arrests in Jenin, but the rest of the arrests were made quietly.
"Furthermore, we tightened security around the settlements and the security fence as part of (IDF's) activity against illegal residents."
IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz toured the area of Gush Etzion overnight, and met with brigade commanders and Shin Bet personnel. The military source said that Gantz confirmed plans in these meetings: "There is a lot of determination and we learn from arrest to arrest."
The senior military source said that out of hundreds of thousands of residents of Hebron, "thousands, with each of them providing for six-seven persons, hold a work permit to work in Israel and are unable to get to their jobs because of the closure, so that impacts the population. Two weeks before the Ramadan, the preparations that the population has made have been damaged."
IDF sources said that while 300,000 people are indeed under siege or closure, most of the entrances to Hebron are still open and the Palestinians are able to move relatively freely around the main roads in the West Bank.
Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu's announcement earlier this week, no organization has taken responsibility for the incident so far, with Hamas continuing to deny any connection to the kidnapping. The IDF have accordingly spread out the areas of their activity in different areas of the West Bank.
IDF troops combed through villages on Tuesday, and are checking cisterns, caves and basements. However, Israel is ruling out the possibility of embarking on an operation in the likes of Operation Defensive Shield, and the focus is currently on a peripheral-oriented intelligence mission.
The families of the missing teens met yesterday for the first time at the Frenkel family home in the settlement of Nof Ayalon. With the operation into its sixth day, concerns are mounting over the lives of the three teenagers.
Atila Somfalvi contributed to this report.