Hitchhiker kidnapping thwarted

Monday, February 05, 2007 |  by Staff Writer  

The Israeli army issued a warning on Monday urging Israelis to avoid hitchhiking after a man nearly escaped a kidnapping by Palestinians in Samaria.

“There are many alerts for kidnappings of civilians and soldiers, therefore the Israel Defense Forces calls on civilians to behave responsibly and to avoid hitching rides if at all possible,” the army spokesman's office said in a statement.

On Sunday evening, Palestinians tried to kidnap an Israeli teenager, Evyatar Mahon, at the Eli Junction north of Ramallah. Suspicious of their intentions in asking him to ride with them, he refused to enter their vehicle and immediately contacted the police.

“The [vehicle’s] license plate was Israeli, but their accents turned them in,” he said. “I asked them if they were Arabs - and they said they weren't. I didn't believe them and ran to report the incident.”

There are few buses that come to the settlement, making hitchhiking the only option for many of its residents. In spite of this, Mahon, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Maale Levona, says he will continue to hitchhike. "I regularly hitchhike because I have no other choice. I am aware of the dangers, but there is no public transportation to take us out of the community and back. Obviously I will now closely check the vehicles stopping at the hitchhiking stop, and I will suspect everyone, but I will continue hitchhiking as usual."

Israeli troops and Border Police deployed in the area and set up roadblocks. Border policemen stopped the suspects’ vehicle near the Bir Zeit Junction, north of Ramallah. The three suspects were taken in for questioning by security forces.

The suspects’ car contained two guns and large amounts of ammunition.

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