Recent months have seen a sharp rise in the number of intelligence alerts warning of Palestinian plots to kidnap IDF soldiers in Judea and Samaria, the IDF said Sunday.
In response to the escalated threat, the Samaria Territorial Brigade recently held a drill simulating the kidnapping of a soldier by an organized terrorist cell and an attempt to hide the soldier in the Nablus area.
A senior military source quoted by the IDF’s Hebrew-language website said the number of alerts has grown by dozens of percent, “far more than the same period last year.”
“This is still seen [by terrorists] as the most prestigious attack,” the source added.
Lt.-Col. Moshe Dangor, deputy commander of the Samaria Brigade, said, “We understand that they’re trying to surprise us where we are not ready, and we’re responding to that.”
During last week’s drill, Nahal infantry brigade soldiers, together with the Border Police and Judea and Samaria police, practiced responding to an attempted abduction near Kedumim, in which the “kidnappers” came prepared with a get-away vehicle.
“We’re constantly aware of sensitive areas, and there is always a force ready to get to them quickly,” Dangor said. “As a rule, the response by the brigade to a kidnapping will be very quick. This is engraved in the awareness of every commander.”
In recent months, the IDF’s Security Branch, based at General Staff Headquarters in Tel Aviv, has been busy drawing up a comprehensive plan to regulate responses to future abductions of soldiers.
The planning is aimed at ensuring that every security body will know what is expected of it, and that agencies formulate and distribute guidelines on inter-organizational cooperation during such incidents.
In December, an IDF source told The Jerusalem Post that the army has identified “a very big potential for a kidnapping. The terrorists understand the sensitivity of such an act within Israeli society, and the possibility of using a kidnapped soldier as a bargaining chip to release security prisoners.”
The source expressed confidence in the ability of the security forces to meet the challenge. He added that the vast majority of potential kidnappings could be avoided altogether if soldiers and civilians adhere to basic safety instructions and refrain from entering Area A in the Palestinian territories or hitchhiking.
“This is something we continue to fight against,” the source said. “Tactics by a soldier who is targeted for kidnapping, like resisting the attempt, or preventive measures, like not entering Area A, are very important,” he added. “Preventive measures can decrease the threat by 95 percent.”
According to the IDF’s data , most of the kidnapping attempts in 2013 occurred in the West Bank and in the North. In most cases, the attackers were not caught.