Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct an error regarding the number of people in the Schalit prisoner exchange.
Last week's kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers continues to generate widespread celebration within Palestinian society. In addition to people doling out candy and sweets in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, online campaigns praise the kidnappings as a potential opportunity for future prisoner trades.
One of the movements, "Three Schalits," is led by Hamas affiliates featuring dozens of photos of smiling Palestinian people and young children holding up the three-fingered symbol in direct reference to the three abducted boys. The three-fingered salute serves as the movement's logo and is a variant of the 4-fingered, R4BIA Muslim Brotherhood salute.
Gilad Schalit is an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas. He was released in 2012 in exchange for more than 1,000 terrorists held in Israeli prisons. Since then, Hamas and other terrorist groups have openly called for more kidnappings to generate similarly lopsided exchanges.
Hamas officials condone the attack as legitimate resistance and an opportunity to proliferate its military operations to the West Bank, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports. They also are calling for a third Intifada and the demise of the Palestinian Authority (PA), despite a recent reconciliation agreement merging Hamas with Fatah.
"We call upon our people in all parts of the West Bank to confront the occupation, whether as a part of mass confrontations or privately-initiated resistance [operations]," Hamas spokesman Hussam Badran wrote on his Facebook page.
The new Palestinian unity government must halt all security coordination with Israel and "silence the voices calling to help the occupation locate the three abductees," said Hamas' Ahmad Bahar, deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament.
"Three settlers or soldiers are currently in the hands of the Palestinian resistance," said senior Hamas official Yousuf Rizqa. He praised the abduction for its careful planning and execution. The three teenagers are frequently referred to as "soldiers" by Palestinian officials, even though they are not.
Fatah members also are praising the kidnapping, even though their leader, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned it. As a Palestinian Media Watch report shows, Fatah's official Facebook page featured a cartoon depicting a victory sign with three fingers instead of two, referencing the three abducted youth. Another official Fatah cartoon casts the three kidnapped boys as rats with Stars of David.
These examples emphasizes the PA's double speak. Abbas makes statements that insinuate coordination with Israel to locate the youth and condemning the kidnappings. Yet, official media representing Abbas' party continue to praise the terrorist act and mock the kidnapped boys.
Still, Hamas is using the PA's public conciliatory tone to make political gains, the MEMRI report showed.
"The PA's attempts to gain an achievement by helping the occupation locate the hostages spells the beginning of its end and its ejection by the people," wrote Ibrahim Al-Madhound, editor-in-chief of the Hamas-affiliated Siraj Al-I'lam. Cooperation with Israel must stop, he said.
"This three-pronged operation is a good opportunity for real changes in the West Bank," he added, "and it will mark the beginning of an intifada, be the consequences what they may."