IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said that with the passing of time "concerns for the life of the kidnapped boys rises, but nonetheless, our working assumption is that the boys are alive." Similar claims were sounded by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
Security forces have been searching for the three kidnapped teenagers - Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach - for more than a week-and-a-half, but there is still no information to conclude their fate or determine their whereabouts. In the meantime, at least five Palestinians have been killed and over 350 arrested in Operation Brother's Keeper.
Families of abducted teens: 'We love you – stay strong'
Senior IDF official: We'll find the boys
The kidnapped teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel (Photo: Shaul Golan)
Earlier in the day it was reported that forces were slowly dismantling roadblocks in Hebron and allowing Palestinian security forces to retake control of the city as search efforts in the area were nearly exhausted.
Speaking before media after an assessment meeting near Hebron, Gantz said that the IDF was "at the height of the operation to see the kidnapped boys return home, while dealing a blow to Hamas. We will do whatever it takes."
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
He also claimed that the IDF, police and Shin Bet would continue to crackdown against Hamas' presence in the West Bank, arresting its operatives and raiding the offices of its welfare organizations and charities.
The IDF admit that it is close to impossible to prevent a rogue terror cell to pull off a terror attack or prevent him from doing so. In the meantime, the military is mulling its position regarding the implementation of sanctions against Palestinians, especially as tense heat up as the month of Ramadan nears.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon echoed the claims, saying Tuesday he had no intention of scaling back the West Bank operation, and said that finding the boys was still the IDF's first priority.
During a tour at the Lebanon border Ya'alon said "it is just a matter of time until we find the boys and their abductors, but it takes patience".
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Ze'ev Elkin said there was a need to "reverse the kidnapping equation. Today there is a kidnapping and terrorists are set free. In needs to be the other way around – there is a kidnapping and terrorist should be sent to jail"
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report