The IDF search-and-rescue mission to find three yeshiva students kidnapped by Hamas continues for its fifth straight day on Wednesday - but the IDF has done more than simply look for the teenagers.
"Following the abduction, we have been able to arrest several Hamas terrorists that we have been chasing for a long time," a senior IDF official stated to IDF Radio Wednesday. "We have expanded our operation to deepen our crackdown on Hamas. 'Refugee camps' in Judea and Samaria in the coming period will also constitute a target for military activity."
"The Kfir Brigade has been operating for the past several nights as a running combat team, and has been operating in several villages in the Binyamin region," another IDF official stated to Channel 10. "The idea is to raid any village known to be affiliated with Hamas."
"We took on last night two villages [there] that are affiliated with Hamas, villages in recent years that the IDF has not been able to reach," he continued. "We stopped two men that were liberated in the Shalit deal - one of them was Na'al Barghouti, a so called 'veteran prisoner.'"
"We carried out home raids and gathered intelligence, arrests were made," he said. "This is a very complex puzzle."
"Every scrap of information and all information and any detainee can serve the purpose of children back home," he added.
Over 200 Hamas terrorists have been arrested so far during the operation, including several top officials and founding members.
The news also follows several statements from Israeli politicians threatening a tougher crackdown on Hamas, including stark statements from Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid).
"We did not ask for this confrontation - but let no one think they can kidnap or hurt our children and get away with it alive," he said. "We will hunt them, and their leaders, down wherever they hide and will severely punish them and those who sent them."
Earlier Wednesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon declared that - to that end - the operation could be "unlimited."