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By Timothy Bratvold, Correspondent for the Winnipeg Jewish Review, June 19, 2014



The General Security Services and other security branches of the Israel Defense Forces have been able to stop over 40 kidnapping attempts in the West Bank since 2013.  The fact that they have been so successful shows that there is a well-oiled mechanism to stop terror before it happens. 


The question is what happens when the system doesn’t work, and there is a kidnapping? 


To the best of my knowledge, any successful kidnapping that hasn’t been interdicted within the first 12 hours has never ended well in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).


A point in fact:  unlike what happened in Gaza where Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, held captive from 2006-2011, and eventually released in a prisoner exchange, the West Bank has a completely different history in regard to kidnappings.  In contrast to Gaza, where the terrorist infrastructure can keep a prisoner alive and sequestered for years using the warren of underground tunnels reaching into Egypt, Judea has no such infrastructure in place.


Gaza is Hamas land, and any attempt by an informant to aid the Israelis to find prisoners there would end in the immediate death of the informant and his family. Executions of informants in Gaza are routine. In the West Bank, however, the internal  conflict between the Palestinian Authority and  Hamas makes it ripe for informants to leak vital information to the Israelis, who would then soon be able to locate the hiding place of the kidnapped victims—if they were still alive. In the West Bank loyalties are very clannish and there is a constant competition between the PA and Hamas.  You can even have a large family where family members are divided between loyalties to Hamas or the PA, making keeping secrets almost impossible.  (As an aside, many times the internal rivalry between Fatah and  Hamas ends in gunfire as is evidenced by nightly shootouts near the Hebron area that I have heard between the two oppposing sides . These shoot outs are usually never reported since in the Palestinian or Western media.)


Although there is speculation that the boys are hidden in a cave somewhere in the West Bank, I belive this is not likely since inevitably someone loyal to the PA side would inform on them to the Israelis.


Statisically speaking, it is not probable that anyone kidnapped in Judah or Samaria, if not found by the Israeli army within 24 hours, will  survive.  The simple fact of life in the West Bank is that the safest way for the terrorist/s to escape capture is to kill the victim, dispose of the body, and then wait and offer an anonymous tip of where the body can be found in exchange for prisoners held in Israeli jails. 


In my view the most likely scenario is that the terrorists likely killed the boys and have hidden the bodies and will open the negotiations at a later date for the return of the bodies to the respective families.


Unfortunately, the Israeli army didn’t receive information in time to stop the kidnapping during the critical first hour after it occurred.  The blame must lay squarely on the Israeli police.  The police were notified minutes after the kidnapping took place, but refused to believe the caller thinking it was “just another prank.”  I can almost feel the heartbreak those boys must have gone through as the kidnappers dressed as Israeli Jews, drove their new car with Israeli license plates, past dozens of Israeli soldiers patrolling their escape route.


The sad truth is that the IDF is capable of immediately halting all traffic within 10 minutes of receiving an operational order to do so.  Each Jeep has a complete roadblock kid, and the soldiers are trained to efficiently set up a roadblock within seconds of receiving the order.  Because the  Police officer who received the plea for help from one of the boys decided on his own authority that it was a prank, the IDF was only notified of the call for help 7 HOURS after the boys were taken.


The only scenario in which I believe there is still hope that they are alive would be if this entire kidnapping was a joint PA/Hamas operation.


It is possible that the PA sequestered the victims, and will wait until the IDF has given up all hope, and then will mount a “special operation” to free them from the “Hamas terrorists’.  They would then be able to counter the Israeli attempt at discrediting the PA/HAMAS alliance by proving that they succeeded where the much-vaunted IDF failed.  The results would be their demand for even more autonomy in the west bank, an increase of their para-military formations, and better armaments for their soldiers.


The sad truth is that based on the history of other kidnappings in the West Bank, the possibility that all of these fine young men are still alive is very low-- but we hope for a miracle because the Jewish people will never give up hope.



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