Israeli human rights organisations have called on authorities to refrain from collective punishment of Palestinians as the massive manhunt for the three teenagers allegedly kidnapped by Hamas militant movement drags on.
Rights groups including Amnesty International, B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Rabbis for Human Rights wrote to defence minister Moshe Ya'alon and public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovich claiming that the army's controversial raids in the occupied West Bank "raise serious concerns of unwarranted infringement on basic rights and collective punishment".
"The large number of raids and arrests over the last week raises concerns that some of these operations are not the result of pressing operational needs. Overall, the measures adopted and their extent do not seem to serve a military need that can justify the damage they have caused," a statement reads. "These actions have caused, and continue to cause, disproportionate harm to the basic rights of Palestinians, including the right to safety, health, freedom of movement and the right to earn a living."
Hamas has denied any involvement in the disappearance of the students - Gil-Ad Shaer and US-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.
Since the trio went missing, Israel has conducted large-scale operations arresting 361 people, searching 1,350 sites and launching a crackdown on Hamas. Israel say their operation is aimed at finding the teenagers and also dealing a blow against Hamas, which now forms part of the unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
In Nablus and Ramallah, two Palestinians were shot dead as Israeli forces intensified their search for the teens. Their deaths brought the total killed since the manhunt began to six.
Amnesty International has argued that the "complete closure" of the Hebron district, the focus of the search operation, prevents some 750,000 Palestinians from moving freely in the area. "Thousands of residents of the Hebron district who have permits to work inside Israel or in Israeli settlements cannot reach their places of employment. Residents of the Hebron district under the age of 50 have also been prevented from leaving the West Bank via the Allenby Crossing to Jordan," Amnesty said.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the kidnappings and his security forces have been helping the search. The cooperation has caused anger among Palestinians.
Abbas called the Israeli raids "collective punishment".