The Palestinians know that the IDF action currently underway in the West Bank targets Hamas and not them, a senior army officer told Ynet on Monday. The IDF launched Operation Brother's Keeper last week, following the abduction of three Israeli teens near Hebron on June 12.
"We are well within the boundaries of legitimate action in the eyes of Palestinian public," said the officer, a high-ranking member of the Central Command.
"The Palestinian public understands that the kidnapping was an aberration and our response was predictable. They know that we are not working against them but rather against Hamas. The Palestinian public understands that a red line has been crossed."
"The operation against Hamas infrastructure in Judea and Samaria has exhausted itself, with no connection to the intelligence operation to locate the abductees, which will continue for as long as necessary."
Regarding the number of Palestinians wounded and the Palestinian resistance to Operation Brother's Keeper, the officer said that the casualty rate was low.
"I wish every army in the world could take 5,000 soldiers into villages with the resistance we encountered, and the result would be four Palestinian deaths, with three of them justified," he said.
The officer said that the army had not changed its orders to the troops, nor did IDF leadership feel they were constrained by time factors.
IDF troops conduct searches in Hebron (Photo: AP)
"We have no indication either way about the situation of the abductees. Therefore, every special unit's action and exercise operates under the working assumption that they are still alive. There has been progress in the investigation, and we always take notice of what the reports say. We have to remember that if someone wants to be swallowed up in a population of 300,000 people, it's not that difficult."
In the meantime, the pressure on Hamas welfare institutions has begun to make itself felt. The officer believed that the IDF and Civil Administration have confiscated a total of between two to three million shekels from the organization in Judea and Samaria since the operation began. The military has also seized a great deal of equipment and vehicles. He says that the institutions in the West Bank that the IDF raided are no longer active, and are now "just four walls."
Meanwhile, intelligence efforts continue. In recent days, the IDF has seized almost 150 security cameras in Palestinian homes and business, not only in the area of the kidnapping, north of Hebron, but also in other areas such as the southern Hebron Hills and villages east of Gush Etzion. The confiscations, the army says, are undertaken to enable the IDF to keep learning and compiling a full intelligence picture.
Regarding claims by PA officials that Israel has not yet proven that Hamas was behind the kidnapping, the senior officer said, "We can prove unequivocally that this is Hamas. We also did not wait for a terror attack in order to arrest those freed in the Shalit deal. We have high expectations that the kidnappers have not completed their escape."
The officer also said that catching the terrorists before the abduction would have been extremely difficult.
"We have to ask ourselves questions regarding this incident. What we knew and how much we knew. There was no specific alert in this sector, and we have to bear in mind that if two people are planning to carry out an (attack), it is very hard to trace them. In my opinion, not one based on hard intelligence, there is a small number of kidnappers involved."