Golani Brigade Sergeant Nachshon Mordechai Wachsman was an IDF soldier abducted by Hamas in 1994. He was held hostage by the organization for six days and executed during a failed military rescue operation.
Wachsman was at his Jerusalem home on leave, when his commanders instructed him to attend a one-day training course in northern Israel. He left for his assignment on Saturday night and was last seen by a fellow soldier on Sunday evening, October 9, 1994, at the Bnei Atarot Junction in central Israel; trying to hitchhike back home, to Jerusalem.
According to published reports, Wachsman boarded a car with four men in it, all believed to have been wearing kippas (a traditional Jewish skullcap) so not to arouse suspicions. The four overpowered him, rendered him unconscious and drove to the Palestinian village of Bir Nabala, located about six miles northwest of Jerusalem.
Two days later the kidnappers released a videotape of Wachsman. A Hamas gunman was shown displaying the soldier's Israeli ID and reading aloud his name, home address and identity number.
The tape then showed Wachsman's plea: "A group from Hamas kidnapped me. They are demanding the release of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and another 400 (men) from Israeli prisons. If their demands are not met, they will execute me on Friday at 8 pm."
Mass vigils, disastrous rescue attemptWachsman's parents immediately appealed to world leaders, including then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, American President Bill Clinton and Muslim religious leaders to take every action necessary to have their son released.
On Thursday night, with only 24 hours remaining until the ultimatum expired, prayer vigils for Wachsman were held across Israel and over 100,000 people from all religious, political, and social spheres gathered at the Western Wall to pray for his safe return.
Israeli Intelligence first believed that Wachsman was held in Gaza Strip. Ruled by Yasser Arafat at the time, a rescue operation was deemed extremely difficult and dangerous to pursue. While Israel began negotiating the release of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, the Shin Bet was able to arrest one of the kidnappers – a Palestinian youth with no prior offenses. His subsequent interrogation revealed that Wachsman was being held in Bir Nabala.
When it was ascertained that Wachsman was indeed held so close to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Rabin ordered the military to extract the captive soldier and a rescue operation was slated for Friday, October 14. The extraction was to be carried out by Sayeret Matkal – the IDF's elite Special Forces unit.
The operation proved disastrous and riddled with technical malfunction, the likes of defective explosives, and faulty intelligence with impeded the force's attempt to rescue Wachsman out of the room he was held in.
Wachsman was believed to have been held behind an iron door, but the door proved to be made out of solid steel and the force found itself ill-equipped. During the attempt to break through the steal door they came under heavy fire. Captain Nir Poraz, the extraction team's commander was killed, as were three of the gunmen guarding the Israeli soldier.
When the force was finally able to break into the room they found that Wachsman had been shot dead by his captures.
Nachshon Wachsman was buried in the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery on Saturday night, October 15.