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An IDF soldier was beaten and his rifle stripped from him late yesterday evening as he was hitchhiking near Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel.

The soldier was approached by two men, whom police suspect of striking him with a blunt object and stealing his rifle while he was standing at the Koach junction on the main road leading to Kiryat Shmona. The two alleged assailants then returned to their vehicle and fled the scene.

Drivers passing by noticed the soldier, 19, who was lying on the road with his head bleeding, and called in police and medical rescue teams. Police scoured the area in patrol cars and a helicopter, and set up road blocks in an attempt to capture the two suspects, but heavy rain wiped out their traces.

The soldier told police that the two men attacked him with a blunt object, striking him on the head and legs. They snatched his weapon while he was waiting for a ride, and also took his mobile telephone, he said. Afterward they got into their car, probably a white one, and sped from the scene, according to the soldier.

The soldier said the assailants fled west, up the mountainside, toward the Yesha junction. However, other drivers passing by said the assailants fled south on Road 90, toward Rosh Pina.

Police set up road blocks throughout the Galilee.