UK & World News

  • 16 June 2014, 8:47

Palestinian Speaker Held Over Missing Israelis

The speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council has been arrested as part of the hunt for three missing Israeli teenagers.

The detention of Hamas member Aziz Dweik was among 40 arrests overnight in connection with the disappearance of 16-year-olds Naftali Frenkel, and Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, 19.

One man was reportedly killed when the Israeli army opened fire after unrest broke out during an operation to find the youngsters outside the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Witnesses said Palestinians began throwing rocks at the soldiers as they conducted house-to-house searches in the al Jalazon refugee camp before dawn.

A 20-year-old Palestinian was shot dead and another wounded, hospital officials said.

The Israel Defence Force (IDF) admitted in a statement that it had taken 150 people in custody since what it described as the "abduction" of the youngsters.

It said "Hamas leadership and operatives" were among those who had been detained overnight on Sunday and on Monday morning.

The three teenagers reportedly went missing while hitch-hiking on Thursday.

All are students at a Yeshiva, or religious school, in Gush Etzion, a Jewish settlement bloc just south of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

Israeli Army Radio reported that intelligence operatives believe the three teenagers have not been taken out of the West Bank.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner of the IDF said: "IDF efforts are focused on enabling operational capabilities, enhancing intelligence and influencing those that participated, are involved or have knowledge of the whereabouts of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah.

"We are determined to bring them home and bring the perpetrators of their abduction to justice".

Israel has blamed Hamas for what it suspects are kidnappings and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened "serious consequences" if they were not found safe.

The US has also pointed the finger at Hamas over the disappearance of the group. One of the three youngsters, Naftali Frenkel, is a US passport holder.

Hamas, an Islamist group which runs the government in Gaza, agreed to form a unity government earlier this month with US-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Sunday evening, British Foreign Secretary William Hague William Hague released a statement condemning the abduction  and expressing concern at violence on the ground.