Hours after an Israeli man was reported missing and feared kidnapped Thursday afternoon in the West Bank near Hebron, a security source said "as more time passes, the serious concern for his life rises."
The official asserted that the West Bank village is very hostile and considered as a Hamas stronghold.
Large numbers of security forces were sweeping the area, including the Palestinian village of Beit Anun where they were conducting house searches.
The incident first came to light at around 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, when Judea and Samaria police received an emergency 100 call from a youth who said that he and a friend had got stuck with a flat tire in the West Bank between Kiryat Arba and the Palestinian village of Beit Anun, and his friend who went to bring tools for the flat did not return to the vehicle.
At the time, the individual who made the police call said he had been waiting for his friend for more than half-an-hour.
On Thursday evening, Channel 2 cited a senior security source as saying a criminal background which "boiled over into a nationalistic incident" was suspected in the issue.
The area where an Israeli reportedly went missing in the West Bank on Thursday has a rampant drug trade and trafficking scene, according to Palestinian sources.
The sources said that in the past residents have attacked vehicles suspected of carrying drug dealers.
According to an earlier Channel 2 report, the man had allegedly entered the village of Beit Anun to bring back a wrench and he did not have his cell phone with him. According to the report, the two Israeli men are 22-year-old residents of Beersheba who had traveled to the West Bank to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and they were on their way home when their vehicle broke down.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and Central Command chief Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa held an evaluation in the Hebron area Thursday evening.
A senior security source told The Jerusalem Post
that security forces were, "viewing this incident with the utmost severity. We are carrying out all checks and taking all of the necessary steps at this stage."
According to Palestinian sources, security forces have set up barriers and are conducting car searches in the towns of Halhul, Beit Anun and al-Arroub.
Yasser Okbi/Maariv and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.