The lovesick 22-year-old who faked his own kidnapping in Judea in a bid to win back his former girlfriend spent Seder night in a Jerusalem jail.
Beersheba resident Niv Asraf is being held on suspicion of falsifying evidence and issuing a false report.
The state plans to issue an indictment against Asraf and his accomplice, Eran Nagaukar, as soon as Sunday.
At a hearing on Friday, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court deputy president Avital Chen, called their actions “disturbingly irresponsible in the reality we live in, in that in the recent past teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in an area near where this took place.”
The judge was referring to the kidnap and murder of three teens last June, who were taken from a hitchhiking post in Gush Etzion, not far from the Hebron area, where Nagaukar reported Asraf missing on Thursday.
Attorneys for Nagaukar said he was just trying to help his friend Asraf, who “was in a very difficult emotional state, and he [Nagaukar] was worried that he [Asraf] would take his own life. This is why he carried out this action in order to cause his girlfriend to worry about him.”
On the day before his disappearance, Asraf wrote a seemingly distraught note on his Facebook page, in which he asked “Why only when we lose something do we realize how important it was to us? How much it was a part of our lives? It’s said that people learn from mistakes. This is true, but after someone makes a mistake they must be given a second chance.”
Security officials have expressed outrage at Asraf’s stunt, with some estimating that it cost the state hundreds of thousands of shekels, possibly as much as a million – in man hours, helicopter flight time and other emergency costs.
Some 3,000 soldiers took part in the search during the more than eight hours that Asraf was feared missing, a prosecutor said in court on Friday.
Police on Thursday night said that they would pursue criminal charges against both men, and that they view the incident with the utmost severity, in particular for the “major waste of resources for all of the security services.”
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories issued a statement on Friday saying the fake kidnapping took a heavy toll on Palestinian civilians, including thousands who were held up at security checks across the West Bank, and many whose homes security forces raided looking for Asraf.
Asraf was found alive and well in a dry creek bed outside Kiryat Arba around 12:30 a.m. on Friday, with a sleeping bag and a supply of canned goods, police said.
Joint List MKs said on Friday that Israel and the IDF should apologize to thousands of Arabs who live in the villages surrounding Kiryat Arba for the trouble security forces put them through during the search for Asraf.
MK Basel Ghattas said the IDF entered many homes looking for the Beersheba native, causing families severe trauma.
“Thousands of Palestinians were under a tortuous siege,” he said. “They went through interrogations, questioning and searches, because a young Jew decided to play games.”
Ghattas complained that the media in Israel focused on the large sum of money wasted due to the search and the unnecessary danger encountered by soldiers. He said the press failed to report on the suffering of the Palestinians.
MK Ahmad Tibi said Israelis should blame “the occupation” for what happened on Thursday night and not just Asraf. He mocked the Right for being too quick to blame Palestinians for past incidents.
“Why hasn’t [Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker] Sharon Gal asked Arab MKs yet whether those who did not kidnap [Asraf] are terrorists,” Tibi tweeted. “It is refreshing that no one in the Israeli press has asked me to condemn the non-kidnapping.”
Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said he was shocked by the incident and called for its perpetrators to receive the harshest possible punishment.
He praised the soldiers who searched for Asraf for their professionalism.
The race against time to find Asraf began on Thursday, after police received a call at 4:17 p.m. from Nagaukar, who said he and a friend got a flat tire near Hebron, on the road between Kiryat Arba and the Palestinian village of Beit Anun. Police said he told them his friend Asraf had gone by foot to get tools to change the tire, and did not return.
The report was taken as a possible kidnapping from the first moments, and soon hundreds of soldiers and other security personnel were combing the area, blocking traffic on nearby roads, and searching in homes in Beit Anun, all in the hunt for Asraf.
Security forces noticed that the car did not have a flat tire. Other aspects of the story did not add up, and under questioning, Nagaukar 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 in the field as a kidnapping.”
The search involved coordination on certain levels with Palestinian Authority security forces, security sources said on Thursday night.
By Friday morning, Asraf and Nagaukar were the subject of countless jokes on social media. Asraf may have more to worry about than prison, if one of his sisters is to be believed.
“First off I’m going to beat him to death. Because of him I wasn’t able to get my eyebrows done today,” she was quoted as saying.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.