Almost four days since the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, and for the first time in many months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, the PMO said.
"I expect you to assist in returning the abducted youths and in apprehending the kidnappers. The Hamas kidnappers came from territory under Palestinian Authority control and returned to territory under Palestinian Authority control," Netanyahu said.
The three teenagers – Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16 – have been missing since Thursday night, and a massive manhunt has been in ongoing since. The current assessment is that the boys were kidnapped, but are still alive and somewhere within the West Bank.
- Netanyahu: Hamas operatives kidnapped missing teens
- Netanyahu: Our boys were kidnapped by terrorist organization
- Netanyahu's ill-timed, ill-judged attacks on Abbas
The prime minister stressed that Fatah's pact with Hamas was "bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and bad for the region," adding that "this incident exposes the true face of the terrorism that we are fighting against."
"Terrorists abduct innocent Israeli children while we save the lives of ill Palestinian children in our hospitals. This is the difference between our humanitarian policy and the murderous terrorism that is attacking us," he added.
A statement from Abbas' office stressed the need "for neither side to use violence, especially when Abbas' stance is that the Palestinians must continue working incessantly to bring to the release of Palestinian prisoners, whose release was agreed upon in every signing of a permanent accord with Israel."
Abbas denounced the abduction and the "Israeli violations that followed," while the Palestinian government has already indicated that it "was not responsible for areas outside the Palestinian security control that are occupied by dozens of Israeli settlements" in the West Bank.
Many politicians and public figures arrived in Gush Etzion on Monday to visit the junction from which the three yeshiva students were kidnapped, as well as the "Makor Chaim" yeshiva, where two of the teens study.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett stressed that "the terrorists ought to know that if one hair falls off their heads, we will come after them and capture anyone who was involved or aided directly or indirectly in the abduction. We won't stop."
After placing the responsibility for the kidnapping on the Palestinian Authority, the prime minister accused Hamas of orchestrating the attack.
"This morning I can say what I was unable to say yesterday, before the extensive wave of arrests of Hamas members in Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu said at a special cabinet meeting on Sunday. "Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas – the same Hamas that Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) made a unity government with; this has severe repercussions."
Hamas denied the accusations, terming Netanyahu's statements as "foolish". Sami Abu Zohari, the Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, noted that while the arrests carried out by IDF troops of Hamas people intend to break them, Israel will not succeed in doing so.
In a statement to foreign press on Sunday afternoon, the prime minister insisted that "these teenagers were kidnapped and the kidnapping was carried out by Hamas members. Hamas' denials do not change this fact."
AFP contributed to this report.