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JERUSALEM — Israeli soldiers have so far detained more than 150 Palestinian suspects in the search for three teenagers who were kidnapped, the military announced Sunday.

Among those detained were Hamas leaders and operatives.

“We are determined to bring them home and bring the perpetrators of their abduction to justice,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.

“People have just dropped off the face of the earth and the three boys, who are our main concern, are the focus of our efforts,” Lerner told CNN

Israel stepped up its efforts to crush Hamas in the West Bank Tuesday as the hunt for three Israeli teenagers entered its fifth day.

Moreover, Israel’s security cabinet decided Monday to expand moves against Hamas and smash its political and social infrastructure in the West Bank, officials said.

Meeting again Tuesday for three hours, the security cabinet decided to further “increase pressure” on Hamas, saying there was “a discussion about steps that can be taken against Hamas prisoners.”

Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were reported missing since late Thursday or Friday and were last seen around Gush Etzion, according to the IDF.

The three “were just on their way home,” Naftali’s mother, Racheli Frankel, told reporters Sunday.

“We trust” that they “will be with us here, and we’ll hug them soon… and God willing, we’ll all be able to celebrate their return safely,” she added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address that while it wasn’t clear which group is behind the alleged abductions, “it is the responsibility” of the Palestinian Authority to resolve the issue.

On that point, Netanyahu said he’s asked the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “to do everything to help bring them back in peace.”

 

-JEANE MARIE M. FAMINOGAN

LNU, ABCOM INTERN