Israeli Boy Kidnapped and Held in West Bank Released After 3 Days

Karim Jamhour, 7, from the central Israeli city of Kalansua, was kidnapped Tuesday and taken to the Palestinian Authority

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Child Karim Jamhour, 7, after his release
Child Karim Jamhour, 7, after his release

Israeli boy Karim Jamhour, 7, who was kidnapped on Tuesday outside his home in the central Israeli city of Kalansua and taken to the West Bank, was released on Friday. The boy had been held in the area of Ramallah.

Israeli police, Palestinian Authority and private citizens, some known to be active in criminal organizations, were conducting parallel investigations into the boy's location. In the first picture released of the boy after he was returned to Israel, he is seen with members of the Jaroushi family from Ramla, which police believe to be linked to organized crime. According to one of the boy's family members, the boy was handed over to Ramla police from Jaroushi family members and underwent medical examinations. He is in good health.

The Palestinian police, however, claimed on Friday that the boy was never in Palestinian Authority territory. "Palestinian police and all security agencies including intelligence searched in 7 different locations where he was suspected to be held. However he was not found and the investigation showed that he wasn't in Palestinian Authority territory at all," Palestinian police official statement read.

The entrance to the Jamhour family home in Kalansua, July 13, 2018.Credit: Maged Gozani

Details regarding the release are still pending. Businessman Hassan a-Sana, one of the people involved in Jamhour's release, told Haaretz that "it was a complex and difficult mission. We worked over the past three days to locate and free Karim."

"The important thing for us was to get him out safe and sound and return him to his family, and that's what we did," a-Sana added.

A-Sana noted that the boy had been held in the environs of Ramallah but refused to mention the exact location. A-Sana said not ransom money was paid: "eventually, it was about the conscience and the boy was released without payment."

A-Sana emphasized that the action was not coordinated with the police or any agency in Israel or the Palestinian Authority."

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Seven-year-old Kareen Jamhur, who was kidnapped outside his home.Credit: Courtesy of family

A friend of the Jamhour family told Haaretz that the boy's father, Jabar Jamhour, disappeared the day after the kidnapping, reportedly to negotiate with his son's kidnappers without police involvement, a demand reportedly made by the kidnappers.

A Palestinian source told Haaretz Friday morning that Palestinian security forces began looking into the kidnapping on Thursday, two days after the kidnapping. Given existing security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it was not immediately clear why the Palestinian Authority did not have access to this information earlier.

Police Chief Roni Alsheich said Friday morning, prior to Jamhour's release, that the Israeli police and the Palestinian Authority were "in communication" regarding the kidnapping.

There was indication that the boy was taken to the Palestinian territories from the first day. Footage of the abduction was released Wednesday, showing the boy being dragged forcefully into a white vehicle where at least two men were sitting.

Kidnapping of seven-year-old Israeli boyCredit: Haaretz

In a statement after the boy's release, Israeli police said that "Israeli police will not allow children to become playthings in the hands of financial or other conflicts. The police will operate against every violent criminal in order to protect all Israeli citizens, anywhere and anytime."

MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, said on Friday that "as far as we're concerned this incident is a turning point, crime is rampant and has to be stopped. I've spoken to [Israeli President] Rivlin and to [Palestinian President] Abu Mazen."

"There are some things that need to be checked, including why the Shin Bet security service intervened only today, why the Palestinian Authority was informed only yesterday, why [police chief] Alsheich says the Palestinian Authority is responsible," he added.

Israeli police arrested four suspects Thursday night: a resident of Ramla and three Lod residents, aged 41, 27 and 26.

Jamhour's father, Jabar, told police investigators that the kidnappers had contacted him and demanded that he pay four million shekels ($1.9 million) in ransom to get his boy back. According to the boy's father, he refused the kidnappers' demand. He said that they then lowered the sum to one million shekels, and that he refused to pay once more.

Alsheich added Friday that "since the boy was kidnapped by criminals and taken to the Palestinian Authority's territory, we see the Palestinian Authority as directly responsible for his safety and for returning his safely to his family."

On Friday morning, a phone call was held between a senior figure in Arab-Israeli society and Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj in order to get the Palestinian Authority more involved.

A family relative told Haaretz that Jabar Jamhour was a contractor and that he was not known to be in any disputes with people.

"People are constantly talking about violence in the Arab society and lack of security, but for it to come to a kidnapping is something no one would have imagined could happen," Jamhour's uncle, Samir Hadija, told Haaretz.

Some 50 people demonstrated outside the Taibeh police station on Wednesday to protest the kidnapping. The protest was organized by Kalansua’s youth movement Al Hirak Ashbabi.

Diya Taiya, one of the protest leaders, told Haaretz the police had entered Kalansua with a large force two days ago to carry out a demolition, “but when a boy is kidnapped at noon outside his home, it’s just another event. “If that boy had been taken in one of the neighboring cities, the whole state would be up on its feet, but because it was here it’s seen as just another criminal case,” he said.

“We demand safety for the Arab population. There’s only one police force in Israel and it cannot continue to treat the Arab communities like a backyard,” he said.