JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police on Friday said a missing Israeli man who they feared had been kidnapped in the West Bank has been located, and that the incident was a hoax.
Police said that 22-year-old Niv Asraf and his friends had "staged" the kidnapping, and that he had been found outdoors with camping gear and canned food near a West Bank settlement.
Police said they received a call on Thursday afternoon about a car stopping to fix a flat tire and Asraf going into a nearby Palestinian village to seek help. The caller said he stayed back in the car when his friend left to find help. The friend had left his phone in the car, according to the caller.
The report prompted a massive manhunt and topped the evening newscasts, even as a global nuclear deal with Israel's archenemy Iran was being announced.
Police said the men would be questioned and face prosecution.
Last year, Palestinians abducted and killed three Israeli teenagers sparking a chain of events that led to a 50-day summer war in Gaza.
Earlier Thursday, Israel's Supreme Court rejected a government proposal to route the West Bank separation barrier through church properties in a scenic valley outside of Jerusalem, a long-running case that has drawn the interest of Pope Francis.
Israel began building the barrier more than a decade ago, saying it prevents Palestinian attacks inside Israel. Palestinians charge that the barrier is mainly a land grab because much of it runs through the West Bank, often zig-zagging to include Jewish settlements and additional lands on the "Israeli side" of the barrier.
Israel's Defense Ministry had proposed to route the barrier through the Cremisan Valley, leaving a Roman Catholic monastery on the Jerusalem side of the barrier and its sister convent on the West Bank side, and separating Palestinian landowners from their lands. Israeli authorities had promised access between the monastery and convent, and for the Palestinians to their lands, through gates manned by soldiers.
The monastery, convent and Palestinian landowners in the area petitioned the court to change the planned route so the barrier would run closer to Jerusalem and keep the valley intact. Palestinian landowners presented their case to Pope Francis on his visit to the Holy Land last year. They said he promised to look into it.
The court ordered the Defense Ministry to offer an alternative route that poses less of a burden on the local Palestinian residents, as well as the monastery and convent.
In a separate incident, Israel arrested a female Palestinian lawmaker from a left-wing militant group for disobeying an Israeli order barring her from the city of Ramallah.
The military said it arrested Khalida Jarrar, a senior political leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, early Thursday due to "substantial concerns about the safety and security of the region."
Last year, the military confined her movement to the city of Jericho and its surroundings. The army said the restraining order was based on her "incitement and involvement in terror." It gave no further details.
Her husband, Ghassan Jarrar, said she was arrested from their Ramallah home. She had long flaunted the Israeli ban. The military said it has not decided whether to press charges.