IDF soldiers search for students in Hevron
IDF soldiers search for students in HevronFlash 90

The IDF Spokesman said Wednesday morning that as part of the large-scale intelligence and operational activities that the IDF and Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet) have undertaken in order to locate the three abducted teens, security forces have arrested about 65 wanted men. Of these, 51 were freed in Operation Beit Hashoeva in 2011 – the release of over 1,000 terrorists in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held captive by Hamas for over five years.

The arrested men have been taken to interrogation.

Since the start of the operation, said the IDF, about 240 wanted men have been arrested. About 800 homes were searched, and about 10 actions were taken against targets that are part of the “da'awa” – Hamas's "social outreach" and recruitment infrastructure.

The fact that 51 of 65 wanted men arrested were freed in the Shalit deal appears to be an intentional message to Hamas, that its strategy of abducting Jews to obtain the release of its terrorists achieves the opposite.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the IDF-ISA operation. “The activity tonight, in which Hamas terrorists – including terrorists who were freed in the Shalit deal – were arrested, is an element with an important message, in a series of numerous actions that will continue, and whose purpose is to bring back the abducted youths, and hurt Hamas in Judea and Samaria.”

MK Orit Struk (Jewish Home) praised the arrest of the freed terrorists.

"The arrest of the terrorists freed in the Shalit deal is the best response to the abduction of the boys,” she said. “In this way, Israel makes clear to the abductors and their supporters that abducting Israelis will not lead to freeing of terrorists, but on the contrary – it will put many more terrorists in jail. Israel will not be a hostage to Palestinian terror.”

The head of Yesh Atid, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, also voiced his pleasure with the arrests. “It will not stop here,” he said. “Hamas will learn, the hard way, that even if it takes time, we willcatch up with them, wherever they may be.” The activities against Hamas will continue “in the day and in the night, at the moment when it least expects it. Until the boys are returned.”

A senior official in the IDF said Tuesday evening that "Operation Brother's Keeper" is "an ongoing battle that will not end in one week,” the official said. “Part of our strength is our ability to hold this campaign for a prolonged time period. We are hitting their corporate, political, financial infrastructure and more. Even if it fails to stop the next attack, it will have a long-term effect.”

"Hamas made a strategic error, and now it will also be affected at the strategic level because it will be isolated,” the official continued.