As the IDF ramps up the pressure on Hamas, the terror group Israel has accused of being behind the kidnapping of three yeshiva students in Gush Etzion Thursday night, Hamas has gone underground, according IDF officials.
Reports from Gaza said that top Hamas officials in Gaza and in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria have been told not to use cellphones, not to use computers that could allow their activity or location to be traced, and not to go outside unless it is absolutely necessary.
The IDF arrested over 80 Hamas terrorists overnight Saturday in Judea and Samaria, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Office, as part of the wide-scale operation to find three youths. According to a military source, as quoted by Channel 10, several of the arrested were reportedly members of the "unity" government sworn in earlier this month.
The source also indicated that a large number of paratroopers and Nahal brigade soldiers had been dispatched in the region.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pegged Hamas as being behind the kidnappings of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar and Naftali Frenkel, the three teens who were apparently snatched or otherwise enticed to enter a vehicle as they were hitchhiking in Gush Etzion Thursday night. Hamas has denied the allegations.
Hamas' top leadership today is comprised of terrorists who have been “in the field” for several years, who were recently joined by older terrorists who were released from Israeli prisons in the swap deal that released Gilad Shalit. Many of those terrorists joined Hamas' Izz-a-din al-Kassam brigades, and that faction is led by two released Shalit prisoners, Yahay Sanwer and Ruhi Mushtaha.
Formerly, the active terror wing of the group had been run by arch-terrorist Ahmed Jabari, who Israeli forces eliminated during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. His place has been taken by two other terrorists: Marwan Issa, head of the Hamas military wing, and Ra'ed al-Attar, director of terrorist operations for the group.
The Palestinian Authority Sunday said that IDF units have been very active in the area west of Hevron all afternoon. In addition, the PA said that its forces were searching for two known Hamas terrorists from the Hevron area have not been seen since Thursday.
Hamas on Sunday denied all involvement with the kidnappings.
"[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu's statements accusing Hamas of kidnapping the (teenagers) are stupid," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP. "These arrests are aimed at breaking the movement and it won't succeed."
He said the wave of arrests overnight, which included Hamas MPs and former ministers, showed Israel had no idea who was responsible. "The arrest of PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council) members and Hamas leaders is a new Israeli aggression and shows they are flailing around in the dark and we ask the international community to stop this crime," he said.
Later Sunday afternoon Netanyahu hit back at those denials.
"Hamas terrorists carried out Thursday's kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers. We know that for a fact," said Netanyahu in an official statement. "These teenagers were kidnapped and the kidnapping was carried out by Hamas members. Hamas denials do not change this fact."