July 16, 2003

The rescue of kidnapped taxi driver
Eliyahu Gurel

(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)

 The rescue of kidnapped taxi driver Eliyahu Gurel-July 16- 2003
IDF Spokesman 

 The rescue of kidnapped taxi driver Eliyahu Gurel-July 16- 2003

Eliyahu Gurel being examined in
IDF ambulance after his release

 The rescue of kidnapped taxi driver Eliyahu Gurel-July 16- 2003
IDF Spokesman 

 The rescue of kidnapped taxi driver Eliyahu Gurel-July 16- 2003

Cellar pit in which Eliyahu Gurel was held captive

In a joint operation of the IDF, Israel Police and the ISA, Israeli civilian Eliyahu Gurel was safely rescued late Tuesday night from his Palestinian kidnappers.

Gurel was examined by an IDF medical team and was found to be in good health, and was transferred to a hospital in Israel. [After further medical examination he returned home to Ramat Gan.]

Following an intense and combined intelligence and operational effort, special IDF, police and ISA forces operated Tuesday night and safely rescued Gurel who had been kidnapped on Friday, July 11, 2003.

The rescue of Gurel was made possible following the arrest earlier Tuesday evening of two of his kidnappers by a special police force.

The IDF and security forces will act at all times and in all places to carry out their duty to protect and ensure the safety of the citizens of Israel.

* * *

Additional information provided by security sources:

During a joint operation of IDF, Israel Police and ISA forces the Israeli citizen Eliyahu Gurel, was safely rescued from his Palestinian kidnappers.

Gurel was rescued around midnight Tuesday night from a pit ten meters deep, after two of his kidnappers who were captured hours earlier by a special police force led IDF forces to the hideout.

The kidnappers of Eliyahu Gurel:

  • Ahmed Bajes Hajaj, born 1978, a resident of Beit Rima, a PFLP operative who had been jailed in the past in Israel.
  • Ramez Abed Rimawi, born 1982, resident of Beit Rima.
  • Samir Rimawi, born 1980, resident of Beit Rima, a student of the Abu Dis College.
  • Shirin Faik Sheik Halil, female, born 1985, originally from Gaza, lived as an illegal resident in Lod, engaged to Ahmed Hajaj. Halil was arrested on the night of Saturday, July 12, 2003.

The affiliation of the kidnappers with a terrorist organization is unclear. The kidnappers have been taken in for questioning.

The Kidnapping:

The lead in the investigation began with the arrest of Shirin Halil who admitted in taking part of the kidnapping of Gurel, giving the following details during her questioning.

On the afternoon of Friday, July 11, 2003, Ms. Halil met her fiancé Ahmed Hajaj and Ramzi Rimawi. The three hailed Gurel’s taxi in Lod and asked him to drive to Jerusalem. During the trip Hajaj pulled a knife on Gurel and the three kidnappers bound him.

The kidnappers than drove the taxi to Beit Hanina, where they abandoned the taxi and continued by foot to a restaurant in Ramallah. Form there they took Gurel to a brick factory in Bitunia, where they spent Friday night. On Saturday they continued with Gurel on foot to a hilly area near Ramallah, where they hid Gurel in a cellar underneath a building under construction. Gurel was rescued from this cellar over night.

The aim of the kidnappers was to bring about the release of 2000 Palestinian prisoners.

When Ahmed Hajaj was arrested a document was found on him which included the names of the Palestinian prisoners the kidnappers wanted freed, among them:

  • The terrorist involved in the assassination of the late Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, jailed in a PA prison in Jericho (Hamdi Koran, Ahmed Saadat, Ahad Ulma, Majdi Rimawi and Basel Al Asmar)
  • Marwan Barghouti head of the Tanzim in the West bank.
  • Hassan Yusef Halil, a senior Hamas terrorist jailed in Israel.
  • Hussan Abu Quwaik a senior Hamas operative in Ramallah jailed in Israel.
  • Abdallah Barghouti, a senior Hamas terrorist, and explosive device expert, who was responsible for the murder of 60 Israelis in the past year.
  • Other terrorists are responsible for the killing of Israelis over the past three years.