Flanked by the defense minister and IDF chief of staff, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would continue with Operation Brother's Keeper until Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frankel, who were kidnapped in the West Bank a week ago were returned, and again said it viewed Hamas as behind the abduction.
Meanwhile, Hamas held a press conference of its own and promised to "rain hell on Israel," should the operation continue, slamming Abbas for aiding Israel in its search for the missing teens.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said that in the coming days Hamas would fight back against the massive West Bank crackdown on its operatives, and said Netanyahu will regret his actions against the organization and the Palestinian people.
Netanyahu for his part promised to continue the operation, currently in its sixth day, and said that the boys "were kidnapped by Hamas. We had no doubt of that. It's absolutely certain," he said, adding that "Hamas repeatedly has called for the kidnap and murder of Israeli citizens. "
Abbas – between a rock and a hard place
Despite Palestinian President Abbas' decrial of the kidnapping Wednesday, Netanyahu said he expects "Abbas to dissolve the union with this murderous terrorist organization (Hamas). I think that's important for our common future."
Indicative of the tough position he finds himself in, Abbas was also slammed in Gaza for his ongoing cooperation with Israel in the search for the boys, with the Hamas spokesperson saying the cooperation stood in contradiction with the Palestinian unity deal.
PLO official Jibril Rajoub said earlier Thursday that Israel understands only the language of kidnapping, despite the fact that he does not himself support abductions of citizens, be they Palestinians or Israelis.
The comments came after Abbas lashed out against the culprits behind the kidnapping of the three, using harsh words: "Those who carried out the kidnapping want to destroy us," Abbas said on Wednesday afternoon.
His comments were met with harsh criticism in the Palestinians street, thus Rajoub's comments could indicate an attempt to quell growing anger at Abbas' cooperation with Israel on the issue.
Abbas for his part also tried to fight back Thursday, condemning what he called the "collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and the siege Israel has placed on hundreds of thousands of people. "
According to him "Israel is using the disappearance of the three boys as an excuse to launch an attack on the Palestinians."
He further slammed the arrest of a number of Hamas members who were freed as part of the deal to secure the release of SGT Gilad Shalit, saying the arrests are "a blatant infringement on the release agreement."
According to Palestinian news agency Ma'an, a senior Hamas official said Thursday that the group is capable of starting an Intifada, but said Israel would not destroy the Palestinian unity government.
"We are capable of igniting a third Intifada which is an irrevocable right that will go off when more pressure is exerted on the Palestinian people," Hamas official Salah Bardawil said during a solidarity rally for the director of the al-Aqsa TV network, who was detained by Israel on Wednesday.
Hamas will not sit on its hands as Israel "continues with its crimes in the West Bank," he added, according to Ma'an.
He further claimed that Israel's ongoing arrest campaign is an attempt to break the resistance and prevent a new Intifada. He further added that "nobody can foil reconciliation because our people insist on unity and on liberating land and prisoners."
Meanwhile, Palestinians from across the political spectrum expressed mixed feelings regarding the IDF massive ongoing search operation in the West Bank. Thursday saw tensions in violence grow in the area, as Palestinians in the Jenin area threw rocks and fire bombs at IDF forces. An estimated 30 Palestinians were arrested by security forces Thursday, bringing the total to 280 since the kidnapping.
Qaid a-Rul, an official from the Popular Resistance Committee said that the Palestinians have the right to abduct "three Israel soldiers" in response to the abduction of the entire Palestinian people by Israel. The three kidnapped Israelis were not soldiers, and two are minors.