BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A widespread military search across the southern West Bank for a missing Israeli ended abruptly early Friday after he was found alive in a sleeping bag in the Hebron-area Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.
An Israeli police spokesman said that after searching for him for 10 hours, they found 22-year-old Niv Asraf in a small valley with canned food and a sleeping bag.
“The ‘missing man’ and his friends staged a kidnapping. We’ll investigate the reasons behind this and will handle this to the full extent of the law,” the spokesman said.
During the 10 hours that Asraf was thought to be missing, Israeli military forces erected checkpoints and conducted widespread searches — including home raids — of Palestinian property.
The military raids were concentrated in the nearby town of Beit Einun, with additional checkpoints in the surrounding areas of Halhul and Bani Naim.
Military spokesman Moti Almoz told Israeli media that the story of the man’s “abduction” was completely fabricated, a fact that slowly became clear as many elements of the his disappearance did not seem to make sense.
Asraf’s friend called police at 4:17 pm to say that the pair were stranded on the road to Hebron with a flat tire and that Asraf went looking for tools to replace the tire but had not returned. Authorities who arrived in the area found that his car, however, had no flat tire.
Despite this, hundreds of policemen and soldiers, along with drones and observation balloons flooded the area, creating a traffic nightmare for local Palestinians.
Although the motive for the falsified disappearance was not immediately clear, Asraf, who is from Beersheba, had reportedly had problems with his girlfriend recently, Israeli media said.
The Israeli police said they would launch an investigation into the incident.