Israel Police Pursue Political Motive in Disappearance of U.S. Student

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Aaron Soffer, 23-year-old yeshiva student missing in Jerusalem.Credit: Screenshot from Yeshiva World

Israeli police have not ruled out that a terrorist attack could be behind the disappearance of an American yeshiva student, as they continue their search.

Aaron Soffer, 23, of Lakewood, New Jersey, has been missing since Friday when he went hiking with a friend in the Jerusalem Forest.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Tuesday that the police were pursuing all avenues in their investigation, including "nationalistic motives," a phrase tied to the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants.

An unconfirmed report in the Israeli press said that police had found personal items that could belong to Soffer and had ordered civilians to leave the area of the find.

Soffer and his friend were separated as they made their way down a steep incline. The friend called police when Soffer did not show up to prepare for Shabbat, according to reports.

Earlier, New Jersey politicians called for more help from both the United States and Israeli governments in the search for Soffer.

"I want the community to know that I believe no stone is being unturned," said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican, who has written to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking for aid in the search.

Soffer's mother and father, a rabbi and a school office worker, have flown to Israel to assist in the search. 

"Please bring him back," pleaded Soffer's brother Yaakov, during a gathering in Lakewood, N.J. Aaron Soffer is one of 10 children.

The Soffer family spokesman noted that an Arab teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was killed in the same forest last month. The police have charged three Jewish teenagers in connection with that killing.

The spokesman told the Jerusalem Post that the killing of Abu Khdeir, compounded by heightened tensions with the Palestinians, created cause for alarm about Soffer. 

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