Two Israeli girls kidnapped by their father and taken to Thailand were reunited with their mother and returned to Israel Saturday in a transnational operation over two months after their abduction.
Police said Sunday the two sisters, aged 3 and 5, were returned to their mother in Beersheba safely and in good health, police said Sunday, after a gag order on the case was lifted.
The girls were taken to Bangkok at the end of April by their father, a 45-year-old divorced Beersheba resident.
The names of the man or the girls were not released.
As per his visitation rights, the father picked up his daughters from their mother’s house and spent several hours with them. However, when they did not return, their mother, who has custody of the girls, alerted the police.
After the police contacted Ben-Gurion Airport, it quickly emerged that the man had taken the girls to Thailand via Greece, Turkey and Russia, aided by relatives in Israel.
Before boarding the flight from Tel Aviv to Athens with the two girls, the man had new passports issued for them after claiming that their old ones had been lost.
Police suspect that while the girls were in Bangkok, the man’s relatives contacted their mother and told her that if she wished to see her daughters again, she would have to sign documents that stated that the girls had not been kidnapped, but rather gone on a trip with her permission.
The police immediately issued an international arrest warrant against the father. However, they could not ask Thailand to honor it or return the girls, as Thailand has no extradition agreement with Israel and is not a signatory to the Hague Abduction Convention, which deals with international abductions of children by their parents. Amid reports that the father’s funds were becoming depleted and that he intended to take the girls to Vietnam, the police decided to act quickly to rescue them in a transnational operation also involving Interpol.
The plan was launched by having the father arrested on Friday for overstaying his visa. While he was in custody, the girls were reunited with their mother in Thailand and flown back to Israel in a matter of hours, landing at Ben-Gurion Airport on Saturday morning.
“After the father was tracked down in Bangkok, the mother was flown to Thailand on a day’s notice, ” a police official told Israel’s Channel 10 news. “When she arrived, the father was isolated for a few hours. The mother was then reunited with her daughters, and several hours later, they were already on a plane headed back to Israel.”
The official said the father remained in Thailand. Three of his relatives in Israel were arrested on suspicion of blackmail and aiding and abetting the kidnapping, including his brother, sister, and brother-in-law. They will be remanded in Beersheba on Monday.