Niv Asraf, 22, was in Jerusalem Magistrate Court Friday morning for a remand hearing after he allegedly faked his own kidnapping as part of a hoax.
The Beer Sheva resident was suspected of fabrication of evidence, obstruction of justice, disturbing the peace, and obstruction of a law enforcement officer. The court extended Asraf's remand by three days. His friend also had his remand extended by three days. It emerged Friday that this friend Eran Nagauker, who falsely reported the kidnapping, was an IDF soldier.
The IDF spokesman said late Thursday night that Asraf had not been kidnapped and police would continue the investigation.
Judge Chen Avital said at Friday's hearing that the evidence tying the suspects to the case was indisputable. "This deed was shockingly irresponsible considering our reality, especially because in the recent past teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in an area adjacent to where this incident took place."
Judea and Samaria District Police said Thursday that Asraf had been found in Kiryat Arba with canned food and a sleeping bag. "The 'missing man' and his friends staged a kidnapping," the police spokesman said. "We will investigate the reasons behind this and will handle this to the full extent of the law. We take this hoax very seriously. A waste of resources and rattling the entire defense system because of a deception is a most serious case, especially in this sensitive security situation."
The police put the costs of the 10-hour search effort at a few millions of shekels, including manpower, emergency helicopters and opening up special emergency command centers. According to the IDF, some 2000 soldiers were involved in rescue efforts.
Asraf's father, Shmuel, apologized on behalf of his son on Friday morning. "We apologize to all those who helped in the search," he said. "I don't know what he was thinking. We are happy he's back, but also worried because of his mental state."
Other family members were just relieved that he'd been found. "My smile is back," said his mother. "I'm so happy." One of his sisters expressed frustration: "First we'll seriously beat him up. I didn't get my eyebrows done because of him."
Israeli security forces were first alerted to Asraf's disappearance when his friend called the police at 4:17 pm, saying he and Asraf were stranded with a flat tire on their way to pray at the Cave of the Patriarchs. The caller said Asraf went to find tools to replace the tire but never returned.
However, when the IDF arrived at the scene, troops found no flat tires in the vehicle and after other questions arose from the friend's story, he was taken for questioning.
Hundreds of policemen and soldiers from the IDF's Judea and Samaria division were deployed to the area to search for Asraf, including Special Unit soldiers. The troops were searching houses and cars in Bayt Einun.
Forces were searching the area between Halhul north of Hebron and Bani Na'im south of Hebron. The IDF also launched drones and observation balloons into the air to for a bird's eye view of the area.
The army closed roads around Bayt Einun on Highway 60 and Highway 35 as part of the search effort and declared the entire area a closed military zone.