Since the beginning of 2013, terrorists have attempted dozens of kidnapping attacks, and their motivation to abduct soldiers remains high. The goal of their efforts is clear: to trade IDF (Zahal) soldiers – captured dead or alive – for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
On October 18, 2011, Israelis everywhere celebrated the release of Sergeant First Class Gilad Shalit after five years in terrorist captivity. On that day, Hamas terrorists freed SFC Shalit – an IDF (Zahal) soldier whom they kidnapped in 2006 – in exchange for about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Despite the overjoyed reaction in Israel, the threat of kidnapping has remained high ever since. Until today, Palestinian terrorists view the capture of SFC Shalit as a key accomplishment, increasing their determination to kidnap Israelis and trade them for Palestinian prisoners.
“Various assessments show a number of attempts to kidnap soldiers since the beginning of the year,” explains Major G, a senior officer in the Operations Branch, a major IDF (Zahal) unit that analyzes and prevents kidnappings. Since the start of 2013, the ISA (Israel Security Agency or Shin Bet Security Service) has foiled 37 kidnappings.
Earlier this year, the IDF (Zahal) released a key message on personal safety, describing the kidnapping of soldiers as “a tactical effort with strategic implications, used by the kidnappers as a bargaining chip to force decision makers in Israel to accede to their demands.” In 2012, Israel exposed dozens of kidnapping attempts in Judea and Samaria alone, and the numbers have remained high this year.
Terrorists in Gaza also pose a significant threat. Hamas, for example, has put considerable effort into kidnapping attempts through its large terror network. With a heavy emphasis on preparations for abductions, the terrorist organization shares its knowledge, guidance and funds with its counterparts in Judea and Samaria.
At any moment, soldiers waiting for a bus could fall victim to a terror attack
Intelligence information gathered by the Israeli Police describes kidnapping as a central threat alongside other attacks such as rocket fire. “Terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Judea and Samaria Region have intentions to kidnap security officials and civilians,” notes a report from the Operations Branch that quotes the statistics.
Long list of kidnappings & abduction attempts
Last September, a Palestinian terrorist lured Sgt. Tomer Hazan to the Palestinian village of Qalqilya and murdered the young IDF (Zahal) soldier. During an interrogation, the terrorist admitted his plans to trade Sgt. Hazan’s body for the release of his brother – a convicted terrorist imprisoned in Israel.
“Recently, we have observed a rise in the number of kidnapping attempts – the main example being the kidnapping and murder of Sgt. Tomer Hazan,” explained a senior officer in the IDF (Zahal) Central Command. “This attack brings to mind [other] attempts to kidnap soldiers with luring tactics – attempts to pull civilians and soldiers into dealings that result in kidnappings.”
One prominent kidnapping attempt was prevented by the ISA this past New Year’s Eve. Forces detained an Islamic Jihad cell near the Israeli city of Kfar Saba, uncovering ski masks, adhesive tape, a box cutter and a handgun in the terrorists’ possession. Their cell’s intentions were clear: the squad was funded and trained by activists from Jenin and it prepared to carry out an attack.
Sgt. Tomer Hazan, who was kidnapped and murdered by a Palestinian terrorist
In February 2013, IDF (Zahal) forces uncovered Hamas military infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, whose members had been trained by Hamas forces from the Gaza Strip to kidnap an Israeli soldier. During the interrogation, it was discovered that this Hamas cell was in the final stages of preparation: they were planning to hit a soldier with a car or capture him at knife point, and then stow him away in a car.
As a result of the significant kidnapping threat in Israel, the IDF (Zahal) repeatedly warns soldiers to remain prepared and alert on their way to military bases. “The motivation to kidnap soldiers is high,” one senior IDF (Zahal) official says, “even after our success with Gilad Shalit.”