Israeli man tells of last encounter with kidnapped teens

Beersheba resident says he gave the boys a ride Thursday night shortly before their disappearance near Hebron

The three missing teens, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel (Photo credit: Courtesy)
The three missing teens, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel (Photo credit: Courtesy)

A Beersheba man contacted police on Saturday to reveal that he gave the three kidnapped Israel yeshiva students — Naftali Frenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach — a ride in the Hebron area, where they were last seen Thursday night.

The three were at a hitchhiking post when the man drove up and signaled with his hand that he was turning left, he told police.

They indicated that they were going in the same direction and hopped in the car.

The man said he asked them if they were not afraid to hitchhike in the West Bank at night, but received a noncommittal answer, he told Channel 10.

The unidentified man said he only realized these were the missing boys when he came upon their photos circulating on Facebook on Saturday.

“On the one hand, I’m sorry I gave them a ride at all. Maybe their kidnapping would have been prevented. On the other hand, I wish I’d taken them home,” he said.

The West Bank yeshiva students were last spotted at a hitchhiking post in the vicinity of Hebron on Thursday night. No one has seen or heard from them since.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Saturday night that the three were kidnapped by a terrorist organization, and said that he holds the Palestinian Authority responsible.

Israeli security forces conducted a massive manhunt overnight Friday and into Saturday as part of an ongoing investigation into the kidnapping.

Netanyahu convened a security meeting Saturday evening at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the search for the three.

Defense Minister Moshe (Bougie) Ya’alon said Saturday afternoon that Israel’s working assumption is that the three are still alive. He admitted that their apparent abduction had gone “under the radar” of intelligence gatherers who therefore failed to thwart the attack.

“We are in the midst of an intelligence (gathering) and operational effort,” Ya’alon told reporters after holding a situation report with military leaders. “I hope this effort leads us as soon as possible to the missing (teens) and to rescuing them alive.”

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