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Growing criticism of Israel's West Bank operation

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Israeli searchThousands of Israeli soldiers have been combing the West Bank inch by inch, searching homes, crawling into caves and even pumping wells to try to find three teens who Israel says were abducted by the Islamic militant Hamas.

But nearly two weeks into Israel's most extensive military operation in the West Bank in a decade, there's no sign of the missing.

With the disappearance unresolved, Israel has been using the searches to try to dismantle Hamas' operations in the West Bank. Israel says it has delivered a painful blow to Hamas, arresting 270 Hamas activists and raiding more than 60 businesses and institutions linked to the group.

But in broadening the goals of the campaign, Israel has invited growing criticism, following the initial condemnation of the abductions by Palestinian leaders and the international community.

Palestinian officials say the sweep is boosting the Islamic militants' popularity at the expense of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. They say Israeli forces have needlessly escalated tensions, targeting sites with tenuous links to Hamas while sparking protests that have left four Palestinians dead — including a teenager.

They also argue that after years of Israeli and Palestinian crackdowns, Hamas was already weak when the new sweep began.

"Israel has no real targets," said Maj. Gen. Adnan Damiri of the Palestinian security forces. "Israel is doing a show."


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