TEL AVIV, Israel - Israel said it had detained 51 Palestinians freed in a 2011 prisoner swap overnight as its forces searched for an American and two other teens who went missing in the occupied West Bank last week.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the abductions for the first time Wednesday.
"Regardless of the party that did this, we will have to say that to them, because we can't tolerate such operations," Abbas said. "We are coordinating with [Israel] in order to return those youths because they are human beings and we want to protect the lives of human beings.”
Israel said it had detained about 240 Palestinians and searched some 800 locations since Gilad Shaar, 19, Eyal Yifrach, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, an American citizen who was born in Israel, disappeared on Thursday.
More than 65 Palestinians were arrested overnight, including the 51 who were among 1,027 Palestinians freed in return for soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Hamas in 2006. Palestinians have accused Israel of reneging on the Shalit deal.
The Israeli government blames the militant group, which governs the Gaza Strip and in April signed a unity agreement with Abbas, for kidnapping the teens. Hamas has not claimed responsibility for the disappearances.
The Israeli Defense Forces said it had also carried out 10 operations against what it described as the “civilian lifeline used by Hamas to recruit, disseminate information and enable cash flow.”
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner added: "Eyal, Gilad and Naftali are still in the hands of Hamas terrorists. It is our obligation, and we are determined to persist with our actions, that is already striking a substantial blow on Hamas terror infrastructure and its institutions."
Reuters contributed to this report. F. Brinley Bruton reported from London.