A man who was reported missing in the West Bank Thursday afternoon, sending security forces scrambling across the area in a mad dash against time, faked his disappearance along with a friend, the Judea and Samaria District police said.
Police said they view the incident with the utmost severity in particular due to what they said was a "major waste of resources for all of the security services."
Police said Niv Asraf, 22 from Beersheba, was found alive and well in a dry creek bed outside Kiryat Arba, with a sleeping bag and a supply of canned goods. They added that the investigation against Asraf and his friend is ongoing.
A massive search for Asraf was launched late Thursday afternoon, after police received a call at 4:17 p.m. from Asaraf's friend, who said he and a friend got a flat tire near Hebron, on the road between Kiryat Arba and the Palestinian village Beit Anoun. Police said he told them his friend, Asraf, walked off to get tools to change the flat tire, but did not return.
The report was taken as a possible kidnapping from the first moments, and soon hundreds of soldiers and security personnel were combing the area and blocking traffic on nearby roads in the hunt for Asraf, also carrying out searches in Palestinian homes in Beit Anoun.
After responding to the call, security forces also noticed that the car did not have a flat tire. Other aspects of the story didn't add up, and under questioning, Asraf's friend contradicted himself to investigators.
On Thursday evening amid the search, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said "we don't know yet if this is terrorism or a criminal incident. We are treating this as a kidnapping on the ground."
Security sources said Thursday night that the search also involved coordination on certain levels with Palestinian Authority security forces.