Police launch massive manhunt to find 9-year-old Safed girl missing since Sunday

Haymanut Kasau last seen outside absorption center handing out election leaflets; canine unit chief says case ‘extremely unusual,’ lack of evidence ‘very worrying’

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Haymanut Kasau, 9, who went missing on February 25, 2024, from a Jewish Agency absorption center in Safed, northern Israel. (Courtesy)
Haymanut Kasau, 9, who went missing on February 25, 2024, from a Jewish Agency absorption center in Safed, northern Israel. (Courtesy)

Police on Tuesday expanded efforts to find a 9-year-old girl from the northern city of Safed who has been missing for two days, as evidence of her whereabouts remained elusive.

Haymanut Kasau was last seen in security footage at 7:45 p.m. on Sunday handing out municipal election leaflets outside the Jewish Agency absorption center, where she has lived for the past three years since immigrating with her family from Ethiopia, police said.

According to a description, Kasau stands at 1.20 meters (3’11”) and is slim with dark hair and dark eyes. She was wearing pink pants, a black skirt, and a white shirt at the time of her disappearance.

The Kinneret district’s crimefighting unit has so far collected security footage from dozens of cameras and testimonies from residents but has so far not turned up any indication of the girl’s whereabouts, several media outlets reported, causing concern among senior police officials.

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Immigration and Absorption Minister Ofir Sofer traveled to Safed on Tuesday to accompany search efforts.

“All directions of the investigation are being examined, including on an intelligence level of scanning the entire area. Let’s hope we find her as soon as possible,” Shabtai said at a press conference, adding that police were ready for any eventuality.

The police’s northern district chief Shuki Tahauko told reporters the force was “doing everything” to find Kasau.

“Together with hundreds of volunteers, police officers, and dogs we are searching for her everywhere,” Safed police chief Itzik Abuhazira said.

“Every scenario is possible. From a scenario in which she was hit and is lying somewhere, to the worst possible scenario. We are making every possible effort, even as the Safed area is under rocket attack, to locate her as quickly as possible,” he said.

Yekutiel Ben-Yaakov, commander of the Israel Dog Unit, said the case is “extremely unusual, not only because of the time that has passed and the young age of the girl but because there has not been such an incident for many years of a regular girl who has gone missing for so long in an urban area in Israel, where so many people pass by.”

“The fact that we have not seen a single piece of evidence is very worrying. We pray and hope we get to her in time,” he added.

Channel 12 news reported not all the entrances to the absorption center were covered by security cameras, which posed difficulties for investigators.

Eden, Haymanut’s aunt, told Channel 12 news her niece is a “responsible girl who never behaves otherwise.”

“After she didn’t come home by 7:30 p.m., her mother rang me and began to look for her all over the absorption center. We contacted the guard and said we were looking for her. We searched every apartment there and when we didn’t find her, we went to the police,” Eden said.

“A team from the absorption center has accompanied the family from the moment Haymanut’s disappearance was discovered, together with social workers from the Aliyah and Integration Ministry and the Jewish Agency,” the Jewish Agency said in a statement.

“We are assisting Israel Police and the many volunteers with everything that is required. We are all praying and hoping together with the family to hear good news promptly,” the statement read.

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