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article imageGunfire rings out as Israel searches West Bank for missing teens

By Nathan Salant     Jun 20, 2014 in World
Ramallah - Gunfire rang out in the streets of Jenin on Wednesday as militants opened fire on Israeli troops conducting house-to-house searches for three teenagers believed kidnapped from near a settlement last week.
Three Palestinians were shot and injured in Jenin, a militant stronghold, area hospitals told the Reuters news service.
No Israeli casualties were reported.
The Israeli military issued a statement reporting that its soldiers were confronted by 300 residents when they entered Jenin to look for the missing seminary students, and that some of the residents "hurled explosives and opened fire," Reuters said.
"The soldiers responded with live fire, identifying hits," the statement said, adding that 30 suspects were detained Wednesday.
Nearly 300 Palestinians have been arrested in the past week as Israel stepped up the search for the teens, who it now believes were kidnapped by the militant Hamas organization that still rules the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, a militant group that refuses to recognize the existence of Israel, recently agreed to join a combined Palestinian government headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel admits that its operations in the West Bank are intended both to find the teens — Gil-Ad Shaer, US-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, 19 — and to significantly damage the military capabilities of Hamas, Reuters said.
Abbas has condemned the kidnapping but accused Israel of using it to collectively punish Palestinians in violation of international law.
Israel troops have started expanding their search from homes to offices of West Bank institutions believed to provide money and other support to Hamas, Reuters said.
"The policy of collective punishment conducted by the occupation government against our people and our land requires condemnation by the whole world," Abbas said in a written statement, Reuters said.
Reports from inside Hebron indicated that the Israel troop presence had been cut back on Wednesday, Reuters said.
Many roadblocks have been left open and unmanned, allowing vehicles to enter freely.
"We know more today than we did a few days ago, but we still have a way to go," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said from a military headquarters in the West Bank, near where the teens were believed to have been abducted.
Israel said Thursday that it was banning British-based charity Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) from operating in the occupied West Bank and accused the organization of being a Hamas funding source, Reuters said.
At Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, Israeli soldiers seized Hamas posters and flags from a student group on Thursday, Reuters said.
To date, no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and no word has been received from the missing teens, Reuters said.
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