An IDF soldier was murdered by a Palestinian acquaintance who lured him to a village near Qalqilya in the West Bank, Israeli authorities said Saturday. The soldier was named Saturday night as 20-year-old Bat Yam native Sgt. Tomer Hazan.
Hazan, a sergeant in Israel Air Force, was lured on Friday to the village of Beit Amin, south of Qalqilya, by a 42-year-old Palestinian resident of the village, Nidal Amar. Amar worked illegally at an Israeli restaurant, in Bat Yam, where Hazan also worked part-time.
Amar was arrested and confessed to killing Hazan, the Shin Bet security service said.
According to the Shin Bet, Amar recounted how he picked up Hazan in a taxi on Friday after convincing him to accept a ride. He took the Israeli to an open field, killed him and threw his body in a well, the agency said.
Israeli forces raided Amar’s home early Saturday and interrogated Amar and his brother.
The Shin Bet said Amar confessed to intending to trade Hazan’s body for the release of another brother, a member of the Fatah Tanzim terror group, who has been serving time in an Israeli jail since 2003 for his role in several terror attacks, including planning a suicide bombing by a female bomber that was thwarted.
Amar showed the Israeli forces where Hazan’s body was hidden. The agency did not say how Amar convinced the soldier to join him on the ride Friday.
The owner of the Bat Yam restaurant insisted Saturday night that Amar had a permit to work in Israel, but Shin Bet sources quoted by Channel 2 news insisted this was not the case.
The restaurant owner described Hazan as a “fine” young man, well liked “by everyone.”
Yitzhak Ilan, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV that because Hazan’s body was found quickly, a wider strategic incident was averted since it meant the soldier’s remains couldn’t be used as a bargaining chip, as in some past cases.
Ilan said Israel has thwarted dozens of abduction attempts by Palestinians in recent years.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the military will continue “to battle the agents of evil wherever they are” to safeguard Israelis, adding that Hazan’s killing “was a horrific terrorist attack carried out by one murderer trying to free another.”
A senior military official said initial investigations suggested that Palestinian individuals planned the attack on their own, not on the orders of any terror groups. He said Hazan had a non-combat position in the air force and had an arrangement allowing him to hold a job outside the military — at the restaurant, where he knew Amar.
The official said Hazan was killed with a “cold weapon” — meaning, not a firearm — but would not disclose the exact weapon used.
The two traveled together to the village by taxi on Friday, with Amar somehow persuading Hazan to get into the taxi with him. There, Hazan was murdered by Amar in a field, and his body dumped in a well on the outskirts of the village, security officials said. The body was found and identified on Saturday afternoon.
The soldier’s family, which reported him missing on Friday morning, was notified of his death Saturday.
After Hazan was reported missing late on Friday, security authorities began efforts to track him down. Information led them to the West Bank village, the assailant Amar was tracked down, and on Saturday he led them to the body, authorities said. An Air Force search and rescue helicopter was involved in extricating the body from the well, authorities said.
Security forces continued to investigate the incident, and were making further arrests among the alleged killer’s relatives.
The IDF reported earlier this summer that Palestinian terrorist groups were stepping up efforts to abduct Israeli soldiers. A total of 27 attempts to abduct an Israeli soldier were foiled in the first six months of the year — twice as many as in the same period a year earlier, the IDF said.
In the past two months, military sources have warned several times about kidnap attempts, with terror groups seeking to grab soldiers to use in order to extort Palestinian prisoner releases. In recent days, the IDF has made further efforts to warn soldiers about possible kidnap attempts.
In 2001 a Palestinian woman lured an Israeli teenage boy over the Internet to the West Bank where he was murdered by waiting Palestinian terrorists. The woman, Amna Muna, was released along with over a thousand other Palestinian security prisoners in 2011 in exchange for a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped from inside the Israel-Gaza border in 2006 and held captive in Gaza by Hamas.
The killing will likely sour the atmosphere for US-led Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, which resumed in July after a nearly three-year break in negotiations. As part of those talks, Israel agreed to release more than 100 long-term Palestinian terror convicts from its jails, in four phases. A first phase of the releases went ahead last month, and another is due shortly.