IDF Search Intensifies, Enters Houses in Chevron

YERUSHALAYIM -

After a full day of operations inside Chevron, elite IDF units surrounded a house in the city Sunday night, whose residents reportedly have a direct connection to the kidnapping of the three Jewish teenagers on Friday. A loud explosion rocked the area after its occupants were called upon to leave with their hands raised.

When the occupants refused to surrender, an exchange of gunfire ensued. According to reports in the Palestinian media, the explosion was that of IDF soldiers blowing open the door to the house. Others said a missile was fired on the building.

Two Hamas operatives were reportedly apprehended in the operation, though it was not clear whether they were the ones the forces were looking for, or only guards and aides to the senior terrorists inside.

A Palestinian was reportedly wounded by the exchange of gunfire and was evacuated to a hospital in a military vehicle.

The operation was over around midnight, but the IDF forces remained in the area and the entire city was under a lockdown.

According to Palestinian sources, the houses surrounded by the Israelis belong to the Kawasme brothers, the most senior Hamas terrorists in the Chevron area. They have been directly involved in numerous deadly terror attacks in the past, and from the IDF operation it is surmised that the Israelis believe it is their terror network that carried out the kidnapping.

It is not known if the boys are being held in or around the houses; the IDF may be after the planners and initiators of the attack in an effort to gain information that will lead to their location.

There were rumors early Monday local time that elite units have moved on to an Arab village not far from where the kidnapping took place, but those could not be confirmed at press time.

Earlier on Sunday, top Hamas member Hassan Yousef was arrested during the huge manhunt, along with dozens of others, in an effort to gain information related to the kidnapping.

By late evening, Major Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, said in a rare interview to the Palestinian Maan news agency that the IDF has “many pieces of information” regarding the kidnapping of the three teenagers, but he refused to elaborate. He added that the investigation is continuing in utmost secrecy.

The IDF said they had no intention to harm the Palestinian population or to disrupt daily life. Additional arrests were expected Sunday night, as the IDF attempts to penetrate the Hamas cell behind the abduction.

Word of the operation spread quickly and the tension rose. As the tens of thousands left the Kosel from the atzeres tefillah, Arab youths hurled bottles at mispallelim, and police were forced to close certain streets in the Old City to Jews.

Elsewhere, IDF troops stationed at a checkpoint on the tunnel road between Yerushalayim and Gush Etzion were fired upon from a Palestinian vehicle.

B’chasdei Shamayim, no one was hurt.

However, the attacking vehicle sped away and the terrorists were not caught.