The Israel Defense Forces Central Command has created a booklet for soldiers with instructions on how to avoid abduction. The move comes in the wake of a recent increase in threats from terrorist organizations, said to stem from the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal in which 1,027 terrorists were exchanged in return for the safe return of the former captive.
On Oct. 18, Hamas handed Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit over to Egyptian authorities at the Rafah Crossing, while Israel simultaneously released 477 prisoners from its jails. Two months later, Israel freed 550 prisoners in the second and final phase of the exchange. It was the highest ransom ever paid for an abducted soldier, and the deal's detractors warned that it would encourage terrorist groups to ramp up kidnapping efforts.
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The booklet distributed by the Central Command instructs soldiers to pay attention to "suspicious signs," such as when a vehicle calmly stops at a place where soldiers hitchhike to offer a ride, a vehicle that abruptly deviates from its traffic lane to offer a ride, a vehicle that approaches a hitchhiking area unusually slowly or makes several passes by the area, a rented vehicle, or a vehicle in which there is no key in the ignition. Even vehicles with Israeli or military license plates may be considered suspicious at times.
"A soldier who enters a vehicle and realizes he is in danger of being abducted must do anything he can to thwart the attempt," the booklet says. Soldiers are urged to actively resist an abduction attempt and attack the driver's eyes, nose and groin if necessary. They are also instructed to try to put pressure on the abductors, to cause the vehicle to deviate from its path and to alert the public to the attempt.
The booklet describes real soldier abduction attempts and points out that most abductions occurred as soldiers waited at transportation areas or intersections with few individuals present. It says that the preferred areas of attack lie within the pre-1967 borders since -- according to the terrorists -- soldiers tend to be more relaxed when in those areas. The primary means of attack in most abductions was at least one handgun, according to the booklet. In some case, knives or other weapons were used.
The booklet -- which will be issued to all regular-duty IDF soldiers -- says that in most cases, three people were inside the vehicle ready to abduct a soldier, with two in the front and one in the back seat. The attackers were generally wearing Israeli-style clothing, and sometimes the seat beside the driver was empty. In some instances, an attacker who spoke perfect Hebrew talked with the soldier before he got in the vehicle.
Every few weeks, the IDF receives a report of a soldier who was allegedly abducted. Most reports of that kind turn out to be false alarms, but each report is nevertheless investigated thoroughly.
The booklet was the brainchild of Central Command Operations Officer Lt. Col. Nir Baron. "Naturally, due to the Shalit deal, the motivation of terrorist organizations to abduct more soldiers has risen," Baron said. "The threat is real. It is important to understand that the threat is not only against soldiers, but also against civilians who hitchhike as well. The wisdom is in avoiding an abduction. Regular soldiers have repeatedly been issued these instructions lately, and it is also important to issue them to reserve soldiers as well. The booklet is one of several measures we are taking to raise the level of awareness."
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