JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a public call for the return of the three kidnapped Israeli teens.
“The missing settlers in the West Bank are human beings like us, and we must look for them and return them to their families,” Abbas said Wednesday while meeting in Saudi Arabia with foreign ministers of Muslim states. “We are making an effort to locate the youths.”
Abbas noted that one of the kidnapped teens is also an American citizen.
“Whether Israeli or American, he is a human being,” he said.
Abbas asserted that the kidnappers are “seeking to destroy us,” referring to the Palestinian Authority. He also accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “exploiting” the kidnapping, using it as an excuse to launch a major military operation in the West Bank and round up Palestinian leaders.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, in a Facebook post after Abbas’ declaration said his statement is “important, correct and reflects the reality that Hamas is a terrorist organization.” She called on Israel and the moderate Palestinian world to fight Hamas together, “giving us the chance to go back to negotiations and to the idea of two states.”
Abbas’ office on Monday issued a statement through the official Wafa Palestinian news agency condemning the kidnapping and the escalation of operations by the Israeli military.