Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped Thursday evening while hitchhiking near Hebron. The IDF is conducting a massive manhunt and the Israeli government has publicly blamed Hamas and the PA for the abductions. In the course of the operation, Israel has arrested 80 Hamas members and called up reserves. At press time, the 3 teenagers were still missing.
Israeli troops search for the three missing students. (Photo: Reuters)
Several groups have taken responsibility for the kidnappings. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist organization associated with Fatah, issued a message claiming they will only release the students in return for thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Dawlat al-Islam, a self-described al-Qaeda offshoot linked to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also distributed pamphlets in Hebron saying they had kidnapped the teens.
In early June, a Palestinian man opened fire at Tapuach Junction, an Israeli border checkpoint in the northern West Bank. A Border Police officer was injured before returning fire and killing the unnamed assailant. One week earlier, security personnel also disarmed a suicide bomber at the same checkpoint.
On June 15, the IDF deployed an additional Iron Dome battery near the southern coastal city of Ashdod. The move came after terrorists fired a series of rockets from Gaza the previous day, the second such attack from the enclave in a week. Iron Dome successfully intercepted the latest salvo of rockets and no injuries were reported. The Israeli air force also responded by launching airstrikes against weapons facilities in Gaza.
According to a Jerusalem Post report, Hamas has continued to produce thousands of rockets in Gaza, even after the formation of a unity government. The Post cites an unnamed top Israeli official as saying “Hamas doesn’t really need the Iranians for support anymore. It creates its own weapons, and is responsible for most of its own training.” Just last month Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon estimated that the terrorist organization currently retains over 10,000 rockets. Other groups like Islamic Jihad, also amassed their own arsenal of rockets with some having ranges that can reach Tel Aviv.
Four Hamas terrorists were hurt on the morning of Friday, June 13th after an accidental explosion was set off in one of the group’s training sites west of Khan Younis, a city located in southern Gaza.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah mentioned on Thursday, that he was not happy with the new unified Hamas-Fatah government. The prime minister admitted that he, along with the rest of the Fatah faction, lacked any authority in Gaza. Prime Minister Hamdalla stated that public pressure on the government in Gaza and the monetary intervention helped resolve the economic crisis in Gaza rather than his or his ministers’ efforts.
The Iron Dome missile defense system attempted to make its first interception of mortars fired from Syria into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. According to defense officials cited in Ynet, the incoming shell may have been fired by government forces during the celebration following President Basher Asad’s election victory. An IDF spokesperson reported that interceptors were called off because the mortars were headed for uninhabited areas. No injuries were reported.
A senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp said the Islamic Republic would help set up a group called “Hizbullah Syria” to help confront Israel in the Golan Heights. With Assad’s long-term future in doubt, Iran is trying to build up a mechanism for an extended confrontation line with Israel.
After recent attacks by extremists in Sinai, the Egyptian government has transferred the Mediterranean sea port in Al-Arish from civilian to military control. The decision was announced on June 9th, a day after former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in as president.
The Egyptian army deployed a battalion of several hundred troops near the border crossing at Taba. Egyptian security officials worry that al-Qaeda-linked terrorists may try to attack commercial airplanes as they approach the Red Sea city of Eilat. The Times of Israel reported the dispatch of soldiers was coordinated with Israel, which deployed a Patriot Missile Defense battery to Eilat last month.
In two separate incidents, masked gunman kidnapped two Coptic Christians in Sinai. Coptic organizations in Egypt have reported dozens of kidnappings over the last year, with the perpetrators usually requesting large ransoms.
On June 11th, a gunman killed an Egyptian soldier in Sinai outside of el-Arish. Another army officer and a civilian were injured in the attack.
On June 15th, Palestinian gunmen shot at Israeli security guards at a military checkpoint close to Bethlehem — no injuries were reported.
Shin Bet recently released statistics for attacks during the month of May:
Gaza – 4 rocket launchings; 1 mortar shell launching; 2 small arms shootings; 1 IED; 1 Anti-Tank.
Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem – 107 attacks: 14 IED; 4 small arms shootings (1 in Jerusalem); 1 object/stone throwing (in Jerusalem); 88 firebombs (9 in Jerusalem).