As the search for the three teenage boys feared kidnapped Thursday night, June 12, outside Alon Shevut, went into its second day, the shape of a large Palestinian terrorist organization and a carefully planned, step-by-step abduction began to emerge. The massive IDF-Shin Bet hunt, fortified with more manpower and aerial vehicles Friday night, uncovered the hand of a suspected central command, most likely set up by Hamas, that appeared to be operating somewhere underground, having cut off communications with the kidnappers so as not to betray the location of their hideout with the boys – two 16-year olds from Yeshivot Etzion and a third boy. One of the three is a US citizen.
The planners had 8-11 hours after snatching the boys until the Israeli search began for detailed planning.
Most of the information gathered so far is kept under tight wraps. However, debkafile’s military sources report that the charred Hyundai Elantra found in the Mt. Hebron village of Dura Friday has been identified as the kidnap car, which was torched to destroy any forensic evidence. The boys were later transferred to another vehicle. Local firefighters who extinguished the fire may have smudged any remaining clues – which may have been calculated.
It was a fairly small vehicle, very cramped for the three abductees plus kidnappers, so there may have been no more than one or two.
A fourth boy who, fortunately for him, arrived on the scene shortly after the trio was abducted described wht he had seen. It turns out that the kidnap car came from the direction of Jerusalem and performed a U-turn before driving off toward Hebron.
Israeli officials issue blanket denials of any clues to the boys’ disappearance, but some leads have certainly been collected and are being painstakingly followed up for substance.
The Hebron district of the southern West Bank is a challenging terrain for a search. A hotbed of extremist Palestinian groups, it is hilly, covered in dense foliage and riddled with hundreds if not thousands of caves, some of which are virtually inaccessible. Wanted terrorists have in the past stayed hidden in those cave systems for months, before they were hunted down by Israeli special forces, usually only after tip-offs.
So if sufficient supplies of food and water were set up in one of those caves, the three boys and their captors could remain holed up undiscovered for a lengthy period.
In recent months, this part of the West Bank has seen several terrorist attacks by unknown perpetrators.
On Sept. 23, 2013, Sgt. Koby Gal was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper while on guard at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
On April 14, Baruch Mizrahi, a high-ranking officer in the Police Intelligence Division and former colonel in the clandestine IDF 8200 Unit, was killed on his way to Hebron with his famiy by a lone killer who stepped in front of his car and opened fire.
Neither killer has been traced.
The working hypothesis is that a broad terrorist infrastructure is operating underground in the Hebron sector, which has so far defied Israel security service efforts to uncover and dismantle it. It is too soon to determine whether it is connected to the triple abduction, although a large number of attempted kidnappings were foiled in recent months.
The officers responsible for these successes are actively leading the search.
Friday night and Saturday morning, Israeli forces arrested a number of Palestinian suspects for interrogation – including at two terrorists released in the past.
The social media have abounded with claims of responsibility, all of them false and planted to mislead the searchers.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz arrived at the search headquarters Saturday morning.