PA denies kidnapped Arab Israeli boy was held in West Bank

Palestinian police contradict Israeli account of 7-year-old Karim Jumhour’s disappearance, claim child was found in Lod, not Ramallah

Karim Jumhour (Courtesy)
Karim Jumhour (Courtesy)

The Palestinian Authority hailed the return of a kidnapped 7-year-old Arab Israeli boy to his family on Friday, but denied Israel’s statements that he had been held in the West Bank.

At a press conference, PA police spokesman Louis Arzeikat underscored that Palestinian police and security forces helped in searching for Karim Jumhour, who Israeli police said was held in Ramallah after being snatched from outside his home in the northern Israel city of Qalansawe earlier this week.

Arzeikat said Palestinian security forces raided seven houses in Ramallah looking for Jumhour based on Israeli intelligence, but those searches turned up no evidence of the boy.

“After investigation by Palestinian security forces, it turned out that… the boy was not in any of those houses,” he said. “It turned out that the boy wasn’t even in the Palestinian Authority.”

Arzeikat said a Palestinian man linked to one of the Israeli suspects in Jumhour’s disappearance led police to locating the boy in Lod.

Jumhour was returned to his family on Friday, three days after he was snatched from outside his home in Qalansawe in northern Israel.

Seven-year-old Arab Israeli Karim Jumhour of Qalansawe (R) is seen following his release after being held in the West Bank by kidnappers, on July 13, 2018. (Israel Police)

Police have yet to comment on a possible motive behind the kidnapping or name any of the four suspects arrested in connection to it. Reports in Hebrew-language media said the incident could have been the result of a financial dispute between two families. The Jumhours on Wednesday received a ransom demand of NIS 4 million ($1,090,000).

On Friday, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said Jumhour was being held in the West Bank, and that the PA was responsible to help secure his release.

“We view the Palestinian Authority as directly responsible for Karim’s well-being until his safe return to his family and we expect them to take action to fulfill this responsibility,” Alsheich said.

He said police were in talks with their Palestinian counterparts in an effort to secure the boy’s release, and that the Shin Bet security service had also joined the manhunt to locate Jumhour.

On Thursday, police arrested four suspects. It is known that three of them were aged 26, 27 and 41, and no details were given about the fourth individual. The main suspect insisted he did not know anything about the family or the case, but a judge remanded him and the other three into custody until next week.

Police said one of the suspects in custody confessed involvement in Jumhour’s kidnapping and gave investigators leads on the case. They said the arrests created a “situation in which the child became a burden to those holding him on behalf of the criminals.”

Central to the mediation with the kidnappers was the Jarushi crime family from Ramle in central Israel. Karim Jarushi traveled to Ramallah multiple times in recent days and was the first person to meet Jumhour upon his release.

Dramatic video footage of Jumhour’s kidnapping on Tuesday shows a white car pulling up outside the family home in Qalansawe and a person inside asking two young boys a question. As they answer, a masked man jumps out of the back seat and shoves Jumhour into the car before it speeds away.

On Friday, over 1,000 people gathered in Qalansawe to celebrate Jumhour’s return home.

Police have vowed to bring his kidnappers to justice.

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