JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces scoured parts of the West Bank searching for a missing Israeli man amid fears he may have been abducted on Thursday.
Police said they received a call earlier in the afternoon about a car stopping to fix a flat tire and a 22-year-old Israeli man 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.
A senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said authorities were treating the incident as an abduction.
Last year, Palestinians abducted and killed three Israeli teenagers sparking a chain of events that led to the 50 day summer war in Gaza.
Relatives of the missing man told Israeli media that he was on his way to pray at a holy site in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Hours after he went missing, media said the initial claim of a flat tire as the cause for the car stopping was false.
By nightfall there was still no sign of the missing man.
Earlier in the day, 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 on Thursday 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.
Also Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli soldier during an arrest of Palestinians who had sneaked past the separation barrier on their way into Israel, the military said. The soldier was stabbed in the West Bank alongside the barrier. He suffered light injuries and was evacuated to the hospital, the military said.
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.