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Israeli army finds missing citizen who 'faked kidnapping'

After carrying out a military search operation in Palestinian towns, Israeli army finds missing person and says he was not abducted
Israeli soldiers stand in the occupied West Bank amid a search for three missing Israelis in 2014 (AFP)

The Israeli army late on Thursday found an Israeli citizen who went missing in Hebron in the southern West Bank earlier in the day.

"The missing Israeli has been found alive near Kiriat Arba," army spokesman Peter Lerner said.

"The issue is currently being investigated by Israeli police," he added on Twitter.

He noted that the Israeli army and police had ruled out militant intents behind the disappearance of the Israeli citizen earlier in the day.

The Israeli army staged search operations for hours for the missing Israeli on the presumption that he had been kidnapped by Palestinians.

But in fact, the missing man - identified as 22-year-old Niv Asraf from Beersheba - staged the kidnapping with his friends, a police spokesman told Israeli media.

"We'll investigate the reasons behind this and will handle this to the full extent of the law," the spokesman told the Israeli news site Ynet.

A friend of Asraf's told Ynet before he was found that he was likely faking.

"His girlfriend broke up with him several days ago and there's a possibility he's doing it to provoke. I think he's hiding somewhere and he'll turn up somewhere in the end," the friend said.

Another friend who was with Asraf before he disappeared initially told Israeli police that Asraf had gone into a nearby town to get tools to fix a flat tire. When police arrived, they found no flat tire, leading them to question the story.

Earlier, the army tweeted that it was “performing extensive searches near Beit 'Anan following police report of suspected abduction of an #Israeli citizen in the area”.

Israeli news reports said at the time that two Israelis had stopped near the village of Beit Einun north of Hebron in order to fix a flat tire, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

Israeli Channel 2 reportedly said that one of the Israelis went into Beit Einun to find a wrench, but never came back.

After the soldier was reported missing, Israeli forces gathered in the area and set up checkpoints in nearby Halhul, Beit Einun and al-Arrub.

Israeli forces closed roads, raided houses and stopped several cars at checkpoints, Ma’an reported.

Ynet added that the Israeli army had deployed drones and observation balloons to get a better view of the area.

Several hours after the beginning of the search, Israel’s army tweeted: “The missing individual was found alive near Kiryat Arba … Initial indications of abduction were proven false.”

Israelis can travel freely across much of the occupied West Bank, but Palestinians in the territory are rarely granted permission to enter Israel.