The Israel Defense Forces announced Sunday it would resume its searches for Guy Hever, an Israeli soldier missing for almost 20 years.
On August 17, 1997, Hever, then a 20-year-old sergeant in the Artillery Corps, left his post in the Golan Heights, wearing his uniform and armed with a Galil assault rifle, and hasn’t been heard from since.
In the nearly two decades since his disappearance, no trace of Hever has been found, and the case remains shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories.
Beginning Monday, the army will again be conducting “focused searches” in the Golan Heights — where Hever went missing — as well as the mountainous upper Jordan Valley region nearby, the IDF said. The searches are expected to last until Wednesday.
“This is a concentration of effort by a number of units that are working together with the hope of finding new evidence that will shed light on the incident,” the army said.
There was no immediate indication that the effort is based on new evidence or testimony. Similar searches have been conducted almost annually, around this time of year, since Hever went missing.
“Over the years, a large number of efforts have been put into locating the soldier, which continue until today, in terms of investigations, searches and intelligence work,” the army said.
In 2015, the IDF sent divers to check the reservoirs near where he went missing.
The year before, the army set fire to minefields in the area to see if they would offer up some clue as to what happened to Hever.
The military initially resisted declaring Hever missing, though he now bears that official designation.
In the immediate wake of his disappearance, the army assumed that he’d simply gone AWOL, noting that Hever was slated to face a minor disciplinary hearing for missing a unit social event, the latest in a string of infractions, including a 21-day remand to base.
A woman living near Hever’s base — Camp Ra’am, or Thunder — outside the Golan Heights city of Katzrin said she saw someone matching his description on the day he went missing walking in the direction of Syria.
In the 19 years since Hever disappeared, a number of theories have been floated as to his whereabouts.
Some surmise that the 20-year-old was kidnapped and spirited into Syria, where he is still being held today.
In 2005, a German national living in Israel was arrested in Syria, and claimed to have met a thin, dark-skinned man with perfect Hebrew during her interrogation. After seeing Hever’s pictures two years later, she wrote a letter to his mother, Rina Hever.
“I met your son, missing soldier Guy Hever, during an interrogation on May 3, 2005, around 22:00 o’clock at night in Damascus, Syria, with 90 percent certainty,” she wrote to the soldier’s mother. “Of course I cannot say 100 percent because his name was not mentioned.”
In February 2007, a previously unknown and possibly fictional organization, the Resistance Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights, released a statement saying it would free an Israeli soldier captured on the Golan Heights — seemingly a reference to Hever — in return for Golan Druze imprisoned in Israel. Nothing came of the statement, and it remains unclear if the Resistance Committees even exist.
“This is harder than grief. It’s something that is not resolved,” his mother, Rina Hever, told The Times of Israel in 2012. “I have not the shadow of a doubt that he’s alive.”
The army said it is “deeply committed” to saving lost soldiers and those being held captive, and that it will work “with all its abilities” to locate Guy Hever; but his mother remained unconvinced.
“They’ll tell you they’re losing sleep over this,” she said at the time of the official bodies tasked with finding her son. “That’s bullshit.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.