Israeli security forces continue to search for a 22-year-old Jewish man who went missing around 4:20 pm Thursday afternoon. Both he and the friend with whom he was driving in the area are residents of Be’er Sheva, according to a report on Israel’s Channel 2 television.
Police received a call at the Judea and Samaria District Police 100 Center from a man who said his friend had gone to look for tools to fix a flat tire. It had been more than an hour since he left, but had not yet returned.
Palestinian media have already published a photo of the man, as well as his name, but these details are being withheld from Israeli media under gag order.
The incident occurred after the car in which he and his friend were driving broke down at the Beit Anoun junction outside Hebron, near the Jewish community of Kiryat Arba.
Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Jewish Press.com that police officers and IDF troops immediately launched an intensive search which has since widened to include the areas around the Palestinian Authority towns of Halhul and El Aroub, both located north of Beit Anoun and Hebron.
Officials said the missing man was wearing a KKL hoodie and a pair of jeans.
Israel Police and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) forces have continued to operate at the intelligence level in the area as well, and by nightfall were working on the assumption he had been kidnapped.
Roads leading to and from the village of Beit Anoun via Highway 60 and Highway 35 were closed in order to stymie any potential kidnappers.
7:34 PM There are reports that the car did not have a flat tire, and it was parked close to Kiryat Arba so there was no reason for the man to enter Beit Anoun when Kiryat Arba was closer. The explanation the friend gave is problematic; he is being questioned again by security personnel.
The man also left his telephone in the car; it’s not clear whether that was deliberate or accidental.
Regardless of the reason the man entered the Arab village, however, Israeli forces are treating his disappearance as a full-blown security incident.
The area around Halhul and El Aroub is now closed as IDF troops move from house to house searching for the missing man, whose identity still has not been released for publication.
8:09 PM His friend who stayed with the car is a Bedouin. The car did not have a flat tire, but it appears someone did release some air from the tire to make it look flat.
Security forces suspect this began as criminal activity, but has ended up a nationalistic kidnapping, according to Channel 10.
8:13 pm Channel 2 reported that the friend has changed his version of the story three times in telling it to the security forces.
9:20 pm A field command center has been set up in the Kiryat Arba gas station as the search for the missing Israeli mans continues and expands.