Yitzhak Aharonovich
Yitzhak AharonovichFlash 90

Ministers in the Knesset Security Cabinet on Tuesday afternoon discussed the operation to return the three kidnapped students, and decided to allow the internal security minister to make the prison conditions of jailed Hamas terrorists harsher.

According to the decision, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich would be given a freer hand against jailed Hamas terrorists in response to the abduction that is believed to be the work of Hamas.

The Israeli Prison Services (IPS) has already announced that visits to jailed terrorists will be halted until the boys are found. 

Released terrorists have revealed on Palestinian Authority (PA) official TV how they enjoyed a life of ease in Israeli prisons. They have also in the past been allowed to pursue a university degree by taking academic courses, right from the comfort of their cell.

Members of the cabinet heard a briefing by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and Head of the National Security Council Yossi Cohen during the course of discussions.

Senior officials told Arutz Sheva that the current operation is designed to both return the kidnapped youths safely to their homes, as well as to damage the Hamas terror infrastructure in Judea and Samaria as much as possible.

The officials reported that the main national effort at this stage is to impose heavy pressure on the Hamas terrorist organization, and to delegitimize the unity deal signed in April between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) among the international community.

Prior to the kidnapping, the unity deal was welcomed by the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, which said it would "work with" the unity government.

"The state of Israel sees the (Palestinian) Authority and (PA Chairman) Mahmoud Abbas as responsible for any attack originating in PA territory," the senior officials said. "Israel calls for the disbandment of cooperation between the Authority and the terror organization (Hamas)."

The kidnapping has indeed raised tensions between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah faction, with unconfirmed reports Tuesday indicating Fatah has frozen the salaries of some 40 Hamas members of the unity government in a response to the kidnapping. 

On Monday, a senior Fatah official likewise said that Hamas 'stabbed the unity deal in the back' and that it would 'act against Hamas assets' in the event the terror organization was found responsible for the abduction.

It is worth noting that Fatah itself has a military arm, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which is a recognized terrorist organization, and that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which is tasked with representing the "Palestinian people" internationally has never renounced terror.