The fact that a police hotline mishandled a call from one of the three kidnapped teens, costing five precious hours to be lost until his father reported the boy missing, has been known for weeks. But as Haaretz reported on Tuesday, even after Gilad Shaar’s father filed his report, at about 3:30 A.M. on Friday June 13, it took several more hours before the army and the Shin Bet security service began searching for the boys in earnest. The tapes revealed by Channel 10 television last night explain why.
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It turns out that Ofir Shaar had to talk with hotline operator after hotline operator before he could convince anyone to take his pleas seriously. Altogether, 54 separate conversations took place, between Shaar and various hotline operators and between operators at different hotlines. The elder Shaar understood what had happened; he even predicted – correctly – that the kidnappers would have traveled in the direction of the South Hebron Hills. But the system responded apathetically.
At 3:18 A.M. that Friday, Shaar called the hotline of the Binyamin Regional Council, the area of the West Bank where he lives, and reported his son missing. “This is extremely unusual,” Shaar insisted. “Maybe he fell asleep,” the operator responded. “It’s impossible to know. That’s how kids are.” The operator then called the hotline in Efrat, the main town in the district where Gilad attended school, to see if the Gilad had been seen in the area.
At 4:56 A.M., Shaar called the Binyamin hotline again, wanting to know if any action had been taken, and was told it hadn’t. He once again voiced his concern, and the operator said she had referred the matter to the Israel Defense Forces hotline.
At 4:58 A.M., the Efrat hotline called the IDF hotline to ask if anything was being done, and was told the information had been passed to all army units and checkpoints. “There’s nothing more we can do,” the IDF hotline operator said, adding, “If we’re talking about two boys from the yeshiva, they surely stopped at a friend’s to sleep ... I assume this [riddle] will be solved come morning.”
Only at 5:06 A.M. did the Efrat hotline connect Shaar directly to the IDF hotline, where he demanded helplessly, “Why isn’t the army in the picture?”
Police acknolwledge failure
Meanwhile, several hours after the gag order was lifted over the recording of the phone call made by Gilad Shaar shortly after he was kidnapped, the police for the first time responded to criticism of their response, and acknowledged that "a serious failure" took place.
A post on their official Facebook page stated that "a failure such as this must never happen, and we must not let it pass. Whenever there is room for doubt – there is no room for doubt. Not providing a proper response to the distress call of a person is an unforgivable event, on every scale," the post read.
"No organization is exempt from mistakes, and definitely not one such as the Israeli police, which deals with severely complex challenges on a daily basis. Criticism is being aired from every direction, and most of it is legitimate and justified. But some of it is overly disparaging and does a disservice to the tens of thousands of police officers, Border Police troops, and volunteers who work day and night for your protection," the post read.