Employing jarring images and shocking warnings, the IDF is launching an awareness campaign aimed at preventing soldiers from being kidnapped by terror groups while hitching a ride.
Under the slogan ‘Don’t catch a ride, it could catch you,’ the campaign will include posters, videos, a dedicated website, and make use of social media tools on the Internet to highlight what is seen as a significant threat to service personnel. The IDF hopes that mock images of a kidnapped soldier will stir awareness of the inherent dangers in taking rides from unfamiliar drivers.
The move comes in response to increased warnings that terror groups are seeking to kidnap IDF soldiers to use as a bargaining chip in their efforts to release Palestinian prisoners. The threats have gained more weight and urgency recently due to the mass hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
They also gained currency in the wake of the Gilad Shalit deal, in which over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of them with blood on their hands, were exchanged for a single kidnapped Israeli soldier.
According to the IDF, since the beginning of 2011 there have been 21 confirmed attempts to kidnap IDF soldiers.
At the heart of the campaign is a video clip, released on Sunday night to internet sites and social media networks, that shows a kidnapped soldier reading a prisoner statement to the camera. Posters will be displayed at bus and railways stations in the coming days.
The clip is reminiscent of similar videos of kidnap victims made by terror groups around the world and in particular, of Shalit, who was held captive for five years before his 2011 release.
IDF sources said they are aware that the ‘kidnap’ video clip will provoke strong reactions due to its sensitive nature but also hope that the debate surrounding it will encourage family and friends of soldiers to convince service members to avoid taking rides with unfamiliar drivers.
Many soldiers returning to base or traveling home during leave prefer to hitch rides from passing drivers rather than wait for public transport, although the practice is forbidden under IDF regulations. Soldiers in uniform are allowed to ride free on most public transportation.
In 1994, IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorist while hitchhiking. Wachsman was killed during a failed rescue mission by the IDF six days after his capture. Jihad Yarmur, one of terrorists convicted of murdering Wachsman, was released in 2010 as part of the exchange for Shalit.
According to Yediot, the IDF is clamping down on hitchhiking troops, including reserve soldiers. Soldiers caught hitching for rides can be court martialed and face up to 28 days confined to camp.