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ISIS behind West Bank abductions?

Israel's Haaretz reported June 14 that a "Pamphlet Number 1" issued in the name of the Islamist State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and circulated around Hebron is claiming responsibility for the abduction of three Israelis in the West Bank—but the statement's authenticity is in doubt. The account notes that a "similar case occurred two years ago, when Palestinian groups carried out operations under the banner of the Nusra Front," which similarly rose to prominence in the Syrian civil war as the leader of the Islamist rebels. In other words, aspiring local jihadists may be adopting the names of the Syrian Qaedists to cash in on their cachet. Of course given al-Qaeda's franchise model, real organizational ties may follow appropriation of the name. Other groups operating in Sinai and Gaza such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claim affiliation to al-Qaeda, "while Arab governments sometimes term Salafi groups in their territories as Al-Qaida to legitimize their suppression." Algemeiner reports that Reuter's Jerusalem bureau fielded a call from one "Dawlat al-Islam," identified as an ISIS branch operating in Hebron, claiming responsibility for the abductions.

Israeli forces have been deployed across the West Bank to hunt for the three youths who went missing June 12, while thousands of Israelis have taken to social media to promote a campaign under the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys. But many Palestinians have responded with cynicism to the campaign. Khaled Quzmar, a legal adviser at Defense for Children International-Palestine, decried the double standard in an interview with Ma'an News Agency. "We support the right to life of all Israeli children, but not at the expense of Palestinian children," he said. "1,400 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel since 2000, and more than 200 are currently in prison, suffering from all kinds of torture."

Quzmar also emphasized that Israel has endangered the lives of its own children by encouraging settlement of zones under military occupation. More than 500,000 Jews live in Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank, and the three boys went missing while trying to hitch-hike in the Gush Etzion settlement west of Hebron, built atop lands confiscated from local Palestinians. "These children went missing in a settlement, which is internationally recognized as being illegal and in occupied lands," Quzmar argued. "The responsibility lies with the Israeli government which brought these children to an illegal settlement built on occupied lands."

He also stressed that "every single family in Palestine has seen the violations of their children’s rights by the occupation. Palestinian families have been asking for many years to 'bring back our boys!'" (Ma'an, June 15)

Three Palestinians—two of them children—were injured late June 15 after the Israeli army blasted open the door of a house in Hebron with an explosive, locals told Ma'an. Israeli soldiers have been heavily deployed in Hebron since the disappearance of the three Israeli youths. The troops have made dozens of arrests and erected multiple checkpoints in the area, restricting the freedom of movement of thousands of Palestinians.  (Ma'an, June 15)

Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip late June 15 were meanwhile intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome system, the Israeli army said. Four rockets were apparently launched towards Ashkelon from Gaza; the two that were not intercepted by the Iron Dome landed in open areas without causing injuries or damages. (Ma'an, June 15)


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