Whatever the circumstances that led a young Israeli man of 21 from Beersheba to disappear in the Palestinian village of Beit Anoun in the Hebron hills Thursday afternoon, April 2, the authorities are treating his disappearance as a security incident and possible kidnapping and pulling out all the stops to find him.
Fresh in all their memories is the kidnap and murder by Hamas terrorists of three Israeli teenage boys in the same area last summer, an event which led to Israel’s last operation against Hamas in Gaza. Therefore, scores of foot soldiers have been deployed by the IDF and police to scour the area, where the villages are riddled with extgremist Hamas and Jihad Islami cells. The Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence agencies are aiding the Shin Bet and military intelligence in the search, which is severely hampered by the dark, the rugged hill terrain, the hostility of local villagers and the fact that the missing man left his cell phone in his car.
A wide net has been spread beyond the village and intelligence assets activated to in a broad area.
It was the breakdown of the car and the absence of a tool for changing a flat tire that sent the missing man to the Palestinian Beit Anoun village in search of a tool, when he could just as quickly reached the Jewish location of Kiryat Arba.
When he failed to return to the car, the friend with him, who was also from Beersheba, called the police. After questioning the friend and taking the circumstances into account, the police soon decided that the event itself may have originated in some criminal activity but had since deteriorated into a security issue.
They were confirmed in their suspicions by the contents of the missing man’s cell phone and cross-checking it with his friend’s instrument for clues to what brought the pair to this particular part of the West Bank and whom they had arranged to meet. Under questioning, the friend produced several conflicting answers to these questions. It is possible that the missing man was instructed to make a rendezvous in the village on some unknown errand alone and without his cell phone.
Even so, the authorities are taking no chances and treating the event as a possible kidnap by Palestinian terrorists.
IDF Chief of Staff Gady Eisenkott happened to be visiting Central Command headquarters when word of the disappearance came in. He decided to stay and keep a personal eye on the development of what was turning into a highly complicated incident.