Text size

Eighteen-year-old Eliyahu Asheri, from the settlement of Itamar, was found dead by Israel Defense Forces late Wednesday night in the A-Tira neighborhood of Ramallah.

The location of Asheri's body was tipped off to the IDF by a Palestinian militant arrested by the police anti-terror unit and IDF troops on Wednesday.

Shin Bet agents and special IDF troops found the body buried in a field around 2:30 A.M. Thursday, and determined that he was shot in the head soon after he was kidnapped on Sunday.

Soldiers arrested a militant in connection with the murder early Thursday morning.

Palestinian militants from the Popular Resistance Committees said they executed the teenager.

On Wednesday morning, a PRC spokesman, displaying Asheri's Israeli identification card, told Al-Jazeera satellite TV that the settler would be "butchered in front of TV cameras" if doesn't stop its raid on the Gaza Strip, which began in the early hours of Wednesday morning. However, security officials are almost certain Asheri was not alive at the time.

He said that the kidnapping was part of an operation called Rider's Rage, carried out by members of the Abu Yusef al-Guga and Abu al-Ataya Samhadane Brigades, a group named after two PRC leaders killed in IDF attacks.

"Our operatives succeeded in following the kidnapped person on his way between the settlement of Itamar and Beitar Ilit," the spokesman said.

Initial reports indicated that Asheri set out Sunday evening to hitchhike from the settlement of Beitar Illit, southwest of Bethlehem, in the direction of the Neveh Tzuf settlement, northwest of Ramallah, where he was completing a course.

He was on his way to a hike with other students from his course, and had been carrying a tent. He was not heard from since.

PRC militants in Gaza first announced that they had carried out a kidnapping at around 10 P.M. Monday.

The defense establishment initially reacted cautiously to the PRC claim, saying that there was no intelligence that a settler had been abducted, but said Tuesday afternoon for the first time that there were growing fears Asheri had indeed been kidnapped.

Dozens of students from the Neveh Tzuf academy took part in a search for Asheri on Wednesday. Standing at the entrance to the West Bank settlements Ofra and Shilo and holding photographs of their abducted colleague, they asked dozens of people driving to work whether they had seen him hitchhiking or had given him a ride.

Meanwhile, a leaflet distributed Wednesday by the Fatah-affiliated militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, claimed that a 62-year-old Rishon Letzion resident also had been abducted and was being held in the West Bank.

A few hours before the announcement was made, a search was initiated for Noah Moskowitz, an Israeli of approximately the same age from Rishon Letzion, who has been missing since mid-day Monday.

One suspicion is that the militants found Moskowitz's name on an Internet site that reported he was missing, and decided to use the information as part of its psychological warfare.

Police suspect disinformation, but the IDF said that intelligence efforts are continuing so as to confirm that Moskowitz was not kidnapped.

However, IDF personnel estimate that the wave of kidnappings may be used by Palestinian factions in order to spread fear and disinformation.