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Airstrikes

Israeli jets carried out strikes against 34 targets inside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip — the roughly 25-mile-long and 7-mile-wide territory along the Mediterranean coast and Israel’s border with Egypt — on Tuesday.

The strikes followed days of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel — an apparent response by Hamas to a separate but intense crackdown by Israeli security forces in the West Bank over the past two weeks.

Israeli leaders assert that Hamas operatives carried out the kidnapping and killing of the three boys in the West Bank, which sits along the border with Jordan on the opposite side of Israel from Gaza.

Israeli security services have even identified two alleged Hamas operatives — Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha — as central suspects in the case.

But questions lingered Tuesday over whether Hamas leadership had actually authorized the kidnapping plot or was involved in it in any way. At the State Department, officials suggested the question remains unresolved.

And while the Obama administration’s influence is not great at the moment, the White House joined other countries in urging a measured response from the Netanyahu government.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. government is still seeking details “about who precisely was responsible for this terrible, terroristic act.”

But, he added, “there is also a responsibility that both sides have to exercise restraint to prevent this one terrible act from leading to a much broader, much more destabilizing situation.”

Israeli defense officials said Israel was prepared to do whatever was needed to restore quiet. “We will continue the necessary activity in every area, with all force and scope necessary,” Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the country’s military chief, said, according to The Associated Press.

Hamas‘ alleged involvement may help to explain the relative silence during recent days of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who authorized the unity agreement with the Palestinian militant organization in April.

Several analysts said Tuesday that Mr. Abbas himself is under increasing political pressure — being criticized on one side by Palestinians who see him as cooperating too readily with Israel on the security clampdown in the West Bank, and ridiculed on the other by Israelis already furious over his recent unity agreement with Hamas.

Mr. Abbas made headlines in mid-June when he declared in Arabic, during a meeting of regional foreign ministers in Saudi Arabia, that the kidnapped Israeli teens were “human beings like us, and they should be returned to their parents.”

Mr. Abbas said the kidnappers would be held “accountable,” although he made no mention of Hamas.

Mr. Zilber said Tuesday that Mr. Abbas is “very much walking a political tightrope,” and that his denouncing of the kidnapping “may or may not play well with the [Palestinian] public.”

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