IDF forces intensified operations in villages just north of Hebron Friday evening and announced the closure of the area to public traffic as large numbers of additional forces flooded the region arriving in parts throughout the day.
The forces searched through homes, pits, and wells continuing work that began one week ago Friday as part of Operation Brother's Keeper intended to find three Israeli teens that were kidnapped near Hebron, put political pressure on Hamas and bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.
Additional troops were sent to area just north of Hebron. (Photo: EPA)
Despite increased military activity in the area suggesting that some piece of intelligence has been brought to light, no known breakthrough has yet been made in the search for Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel.
Senior security official Amos Gilead spoke to Channel 2 News Friday evening saying that, "It's always getting more and more clear what (our) path is, what the system is that's standing behind it."
According to Gilead, "The responsibility belongs to Hamas of course, and so the system is focused on the head of the arrow in order to reach the target - to release the three."
Soldiers closed off the area for operational purposes. (Photo: EPA)
Though no group has yet taken viable, public responsibility for the abduction, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressly named Hamas operatives as the perpetrators of the crime and Gilead stressed in his interview with Channel 2 that the prime minister's view is, "built on the base of firm intelligence."
Niether Gilead or Netanyahu have made it clear if intelligence suggests that the leadership of Hamas sanctioned or supported the attack.
"Action must continue," said Chief of Staff Benny Gantz earlier Friday. "What's demanded from every one of us, commander or soldier, is to show determination and perseverance."
Gantz also stressed the need for all parties to work together in partnership stating that, "As a whole group we are better than as individuals or single units."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also spoke in the afternoon stressing as he's done in the last week that security forces are making Hamas pay a, "heavy price" in operations in the West Bank.
"It doesn't look like it to the naked eye because there aren't air attacks like in Gaza, but... we're hitting the foundations of the organization's infrastructure - the civilian infrastructure that they call 'Dawa'. (We are) damaging their funds, damaging their charitable institutions and other institutions used only to steal the hearts of the population," said Ya'alon.
Ya'alon made it clear that he views IDF operations in Gaza as being firstly to rescue the kidnapped teens, but also to harm Hamas in the long term. "There's more time for that," he said. "Even if we find the kidnappers... our actions won't stop until we feel that we've exhausted them."
In the afternoon, security forces swept through areas on the outskirts of Hebron upon receiving an unknown piece of intelligence.
Palestinian medics said Thursday night that a 15-year-old Palestinian teenager was killed by IDF fire in a raid in Dura near Hebron while another three Palestinians were reported wounded at the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem and four more suffered injury in clashes in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.
Meanwhile Netanyahu and his wife Sara paid a visit to the families of the kidnapped boys Friday where Bat Galim Shaer, mother to Gil-Ad reportedly asked for greater pressure on security forces to bring back the boys.
"We believe that in the hands of the government, more pressure could hasten the return of the boys and we requested from the prime minister to act accordingly," said Bat Galim.
Netanyahu however, stressed that every possible effort was underway be all appropriate forces to achieve the goal shared by all of Israel: bringing the teenagers home.
"We've fortified our forces in the field and we're investing in a tremendous effort in order to reach the boys," said Netanyahu in possible reference to the increase in troop presence near Hebron.