Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz weighed in on the kidnapping and rescue mission of three yeshiva students on Sunday, blaming the Hamas-Fatah unity pact for the abduction and dismissing claims that the Palestinian Authority is "not responsible" for the boys' safety.
"It is not only that, for all intents and purposes, the PA is logically responsible for the attack in an area [under their control], but also that Hamas is represented in their government and its media encourages kidnapping," Steinitz stated to IDF Radio Sunday. "Since the formation of the 'unity government,' the Palestinians have greatly reduced their pressure on the Hamas infrastructure, as well as Hamas activity in Judea and Samaria."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated Saturday night that "there is no doubt" the three yeshiva students were kidnapped by terrorists, and he publicly stated Sunday that Hamas is responsible for the abduction.
"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.
"Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas – the same Hamas that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] made a unity government with; this has severe repercussions," vowed the Prime Minister.
But Hamas continues to deny the accusations, calling them "stupid" and claiming that Israel's large-scale operation to rescue the boys - which has resulted in at least 80 arrests - violates human rights.
Meanwhile, Fatah's role in the kidnapping remains under scrutiny, as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas promised that the PA would help search for the teens Friday - but Fatah activists have both encouraged all Palestinian Arabs to hinder the IDF's investigation and published a sick cartoon comparing the teenagers to rats and celebrating the kidnapping in general.
Earlier on Friday, a spokesman for the PA’s security services said that the PA was not responsible for the three students’ disappearance.
"Three settlers are missing, why is this the fault of the Palestinian Authority? We have nothing to do with this issue,” the spokesman said.
“If a natural disaster hits Israel, would we be responsible? This is mad and unacceptable, we have no knowledge about this,” he added.
Steinitz has maintained suspicion over the unity pact since its formation, stating earlier this month that the US's claims that Hamas was inactive in the new government constituted a form of "self-deception."
"We must ask: do they intend to ask Mahmoud Abbas and his government to publicly return to the 'principle of absolute demilitarization' that was a foundation of the Oslo Accords, and to start dismantling and destroying thousands of missiles - most of which were shipped from Iran - from Gaza?" he asked. "If not, then all the talk about a Palestinian government 'committed to prior agreements' is nothing but self-deception."