Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas Sunday for the kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers who went missing while hitchhiking in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank.
"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, according to CNN. He was speaking at the beginning of his weekly at a Cabinet meeting.
"Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas — the same Hamas that Abu Mazen made a unity government with. This has severe repercussions,” he added. Abu Mazen is the name Netanyahu sometimes uses for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The kidnappings mark a further decline in Israeli-Palestinian relations, which were already at a low point following the breakdown of peace talks last month. Those negotiations broke down after Abbas agreed to a unity deal with the more militant Palestinian group, Hamas. Netanyahu vowed he would never pursue peace with a Palestinian government that included Hamas because the group does not recognize Israel’s right to exist as a state. The U.S. and Israel both list Hamas as a terrorist organization.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also condemned the kidnapping Sunday but stopped short of blaming Hamas, instead saying only that “many indications point to Hamas’ involvement.”
“The United States strongly condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and calls for their immediate release,” Kerry said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. … We continue to offer our full support for Israel in its search for the missing teens, and we have encouraged full cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services. We understand that cooperation is ongoing.”
Hamas, according to Fox News, has not accepted responsibility for the kidnappings but has praised them.
Netanyahu said he was able to confirm Hamas’ involvement after Israeli soldiers conducted sweeps and arrested 80 Palestinian suspects in connection with the abductions earlier in the weekend.
Abbas condemned the kidnappings Monday.
“The Palestinian presidency condemns the series of events that happened last week, beginning with the kidnapping of three Israeli youths,” Abbas wrote in a statement, according to the Washington Post.
“The presidency reaffirms the importance of neither side resorting to violence,” he added.
Signaling a willingness to cooperate, Abbas and Netanyahu spoke on the phone for the first time in many months recently. Netanyahu had some tough words for the Palestinian president.
“I expect you to assist in returning the abducted youths and in apprehending the kidnappers,” he told Abbas. “The Hamas kidnappers came from territory under Palestinian Authority control and returned to territory under Palestinian Authority control.”