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Palestinians held as Israel searches for missing teens

Netanyahu telephones Abbas and says he expects him to help ensure the safe return of the three kidnapped Israeli teens

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The Palestinian parliament speaker and Hamas member Aziz Dweik were detained by Israeli soldiers overnight during a wave of arrests linked to a manhunt for three abducted teenagers, the military said Monday.

In a statement, the Israeli army said it had arrested more than 40 suspects in the occupied West Bank, with a military spokeswoman confirming to AFP that the speaker was among them.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has accused Hamas of being behind the abduction, telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said he expected him to help ensure their safe return, a statement said.

"I expect you to help in the return of the kidnapped youths and the capture of the kidnappers," he told Abbas, in what was their first telephone contact between the two leaders in months.

According to a statement, Abbas condemned the kidnapping but also hit out at the massive Israeli crackdown aimed at finding those responsible.

"The Palestinian presidency ... condemns the series of events that happened last week, beginning with the kidnapping of three Israeli youths," the statement said, also denouncing the massive wave of Israeli arrests during which a young Palestinian was killed near Ramallah overnight.

The bloodshed near the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah marked an escalation in a dragnet targeting Hamas, an Islamist group which earlier this month agreed to form a unity government with U.S.-backed Abbas.

Witnesses said Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers conducting house-to-house searches in al-Jalazoun refugee camp, outside Ramallah, before dawn. Army gunfire killed a 20-year-old Palestinian and wounded another, hospital officials told Reuters news agency.

The three teens disappeared after leaving a Jewish settlement on Thursday and Netanyahu has accused Hamas of abducting them. Israel has rounded up scores of Palestinians in Al-Khalil (Hebron), a West Bank city where support for the Islamist faction is strong.

(With AFP and Reuters)