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Middle East: Tightening the screw

JOHN HAYLETT on how the Israeli PM is using the disappearance of three teenagers as a pretext to apply pressure on Hamas

ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded once more last week that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas end his unity agreement with Islamist resistance group Hamas.

His latest appeal followed the identification by the Shin Bet security service on Thursday of two well-known Hamas supporters as prime suspects in the case of three Israeli teenagers missing on the occupied West Bank.

The men, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh, are from Hebron and have both served time in Israeli prisons.

The three young Israelis, one of whom is an Israeli Defence Force member, left the illegal zionist settlement of Gush Etzion near Hebron on June 12 to go hitchhiking, but neither Shin Bet nor Netanyahu has offered any evidence to back its claim against Qawasmeh and Abu Aisha in their disappearance.

The Israeli PM treats accusation as proof and demands that Abbas make good on his condemnation of what he termed a kidnapping by ending links with Hamas.

“I now expect President Abbas, who said important things in Saudi Arabia, to stand by those words, to break his pact with the Hamas terrorist organisation that kidnaps children and calls for the destruction of Israel,” he said.

It is noteworthy that Netanyahu calls the three — two youths aged 16 and the IDF soldier 19 — children, since his troops regularly shoot dead Palestinian children of that age for the crimes of throwing stones or baiting the occupation forces.

Indeed, one of five Palestinians killed during an intensive man-hunt unleashed by thousands of IDF members on the West Bank was just 15 years old. The others’ ages ranged from 20 to 30.

In addition, according to the Palestinian Monitoring Group, 17 children, aged between 13 and 17, were abducted by Israeli occupation forces on the West Bank in the first 10 days of June alone.

International news agencies saw no need to report these disappearances, even though experience indicates that these frightened children will be held for an indeterminate period, beaten, interrogated and threatened.

Nearly 500 Palestinians have been lifted by the occupation forces, most but by no means all Hamas members, including dozens of former prisoners released under an agreement that brokered the release by Hamas of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

They have joined the more than 5,000 Palestinians currently held in Israeli jails.

Israel’s West Bank operation is clearly not exclusively, or perhaps even mainly, to do with three missing citizens.

It is a massive show of strength intended to force Abbas’s hand over Hamas, either through pressure from non-Hamas supporters to end their ordeal at the hands of the occupiers or through provoking Hamas to break its current curb on armed actions.

The Israeli forces have invaded hundreds of homes as well as offices and businesses they suspect of being linked to Hamas, which they have looted.

The family homes of Qawasmeh and Abu Aisha have been raided several times. The two men’s brothers and wives were taken away although the women were released later.

Abu Aisha’s father Omar said that Israeli forces had arrested seven family members, including two other sons, and that the family’s homes have been raided eight times.

“They have searched every item of the house, every centimetre of the house,” he said, including a sheep pen outside the home. 

“They have turned the whole house upside down, but they did not find anything.”

Israel’s unrestrained ability to ransack homes all over the Occupied Territories indicates its unparalleled military power over the dispossessed Palestinian people, making a mockery of Netanyahu’s attempt to paint Israel as a vulnerable entity threatened with annihilation by Hamas.

President Abbas has annoyed many Palestinians by insisting on maintaining security co-operation with Tel Aviv in light of Israel’s massive assault on the West Bank.

His decision to form a unity government supported by both his own Fatah organisation and Hamas was in response to demands from Palestinians of all persuasions who said that national disunity was playing into the hands of the zionist enemy.

He is treading a tightrope, not wishing to give the Israelis further pretexts for repression, but he has also been urging a UN security council meeting to demand an end to “the ongoing Israeli oppressive aggression.”

Abbas accused Netanyahu’s government of “pushing the situation towards more crisis and an explosion.” 

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv is pressing ahead with the creation of new facts on the ground in terms of new Jews-only housing projects on occupied Palestinian land.

Even Israel’s close allies accept that these settlements are illegal, causing France, for example, to post a warning notice on its foreign ministry website this week.

It said that “financial transactions, investments, purchases and other economic activities in the settlements or benefiting them carry legal and economic risks connected to the settlements being, according to international law, built on occupied land.”

However, the international community has still not stood up to the mark in terms of challenging Israel’s serial offending, including its ongoing collective punishment imposed on the West Bank.


Britain’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is urging supporters to ask MPs to press Foreign Secretary William Hague to call for an end to Israel’s lawless West Bank rampage. The latest PSC update is available at


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