Searches Continue for Missing IDF Soldier Oleg Shaichat

Searches continued Sunday morning for missing IDF soldier Oleg Shaichat, after about 500 policemen and volunteers failed to find him Saturday.

The searches are focusing on a specific area near the site where he Shaichat was last reported seen, and police called upon the public to help search for him.

On Friday, Shaichat's mother appealed to the people holding her son, offering them money if they would return him home.

"I beg you to contact me," Olga Shaichat said at a press conference held at her home in the town of Upper Nazareth, in the Galilee. "I am prepared to pay money in return for any help that will save my boy, help my son. In the name of our family I appeal to the people who have him - return him home safe and unharmed."

The mother, speaking to the media for the first time since her 20-year-old son went missing Monday, also offered a reward for any information leading to the return of her son.

While it is not known whether Oleg Shaichat was in fact kidnapped, police searching for him said Friday that they are increasingly convinced that the disappearance is linked to Palestinian militants. Police are concentrating their search on the area between Beit Rimon junction and his hometown of Upper Nazareth, in the Upper Galilee.

"The worst-case scenario – that Oleg has been kidnapped or murdered by terrorists – has become a more likely scenario today," said Northern District police commander Major General Yaakov Borovski at a press briefing Friday afternoon.

The Nazareth Magistrate's Court has issued a gag order barring publication of any further details.

IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon; Head of Operations Directorate, Major General Yisrael Ziv; and GOC Northern Command, Major General Benny Gantz on Friday visited the command headquarters from which police are coordinating search efforts for the missing soldier, Israel Radio reported.

Nazareth Mayor Rames Jarrisi and heads of Arab councils on Friday issued a call to local residents to help search efforts for Shaichat, who is from the nearby town of Upper Nazareth.

Police located on Thursday the driver who gave a ride to the missing soldier on Monday afternoon, the last time he was seen. The driver told investigators that Shaichat got out of the car at the Beit Rimon junction.

"Oleg used to hitchhike, that's how he usually got to the base and back," Shaichat's older brother Adam said Thursday. "There is no bus from Upper Nazareth to the Beit Rimon junction. You have to take a bus to Afula and then north, a four-hour journey instead of an hour-and-a-half hitchhiking."

The police found two Israeli civilians who picked up Shaichat and an army officer in the car at the Ami Ad junction. The officer got out of the car at the Golani junction, while Shaichat continued a few kilometers further until the Beit Rimon junction.

The officer, who contacted the police on Wednesday and told them where she had last seen the missing soldier, first lied and said a soldier had been driving the car, so she would not get in trouble for hitching a ride with civilians. This apparently delayed finding the driver and his friend.