The search for the three teens kidnapped by Hamas continues, with IDF forces arresting 37 Hamas terrorists over Sunday night in Judea and Samaria as part of Operation Brother's Keeper.
In addition to the arrests, weapons were seized, 80 sites were searched, and seven "Dawah" welfare institutions of the Hamas movement were investigated. Summarizing the operation, an IDF spokesperson told AFP "since the abduction 11 days ago, approximately 361 suspects have been detained, 250 of them Hamas members, and 57 who were released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange."
Arutz Sheva got a chance to speak with Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yigal Pressler, former governmental adviser on terrorism, about the ongoing operation.
"The focus of efforts conducted in the southern (Gush) Etzion and northern Hevron area will continue in coming days," said Pressler, remarking that IDF forces are searching in a thorough and measured fashion as demanded by the "very difficult mission" to locate the teens.
When asked if such a measured approach might not endanger abducted teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Sha'ar, Pressler responded "if we were facing someone and negotiating for the lives of the hostages, the reality would be different, but when that's not the reality, the goal is to locate the place and then deal with the new problem. That's not currently the situation."
Pressler added that the working understanding is that the kidnapped teens are alive, since the goal of the terrorists is to reach negotiations with Israel to free jailed terrorists in a prisoner swap.
The terrorism expert spoke about why the kidnappers still have not claimed credit or made demands, noting "they don't want to give themselves away, because it's likely the IDF is very close to them."
A pessimistic alternative would be that the kidnapped teens aren't alive anymore, but Pressler emphasized "that's not the situation currently. We know that they are still alive. That's the working assumption."
Pressler also addressed the "not bad" cooperation with Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces, saying it isn't the best that could be expected but could be used to help the search. He stated the cooperation is happening despite the statements from PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's office.
Experts have weighed in, saying that Abbas's statements condemning the kidnapping are nothing more than lip service. On Sunday Abbas attacked the crackdown on Hamas, saying Israel is "killing in cold blood," and that he has no "credible information" that Hamas conducted the abduction.
Meanwhile Jibril Rajoub, a senior official of Abbas's Fatah faction, said last Thursday that "kidnappings are the only language that Israel understands."
"Ramadan won't stop us"
Another IDF source discussed the progress of Operation Brother's Keeper on Monday morning.
The senior IDF source told Walla! that "despite (forces) entering Jenin, Tulkarem, Shechem (Nablus) and Al-Aroub, no high friction was reported last night, but there were violent breaches of public order."
"There's no intention to reduce the scope of forces on the ground. A status evaluation of the issue will be conducted in the coming days," remarked the source.
Regarding the approaching Muslim holiday month of Ramadan, when riots have been staged in the past and tensions are expected to rise, the source said it "isn't a limitation for the forces. We have acted for years during Ramadan with understanding and attention to spaces (that could be used to attack from - ed.)."