Thursday, August 28, 2014

Israel: Update--Remains of New Jersey Jewish Native, 23, Found Near Jerusalem

According to Reuters, Israeli police and volunteers found a body near a forest in Jerusalem on Thursday while searching for a 23-year-old US student who went missing last week, but said no formal identification had yet been made.

Aaron Sofer, a Jewish seminary student from New Jersey, vanished on Friday (August 22) while walking in the woods not far from Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

"A body has been found in the Jerusalem forest. Forensics officers are examining the scene, which has been sealed off, but no formal identification has as yet been made," Rosenfeld said. 

COMMENT: Aaron Sofer had been hiking with a friend, making their way up a hill, where they lost contact with each other.

In June, three Israeli seminary students, all teenagers, were kidnapped while hitch-hiking in the occupied West Bank, some 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Jerusalem, and later found dead.

The Palestinian militant group, Hamas, later acknowledged responsibility for the killings, which helped precipitate seven weeks of war between militants in Gaza and Israel that ended with an open-ended ceasefire on Tuesday (August 26).

Rosenfeld said police, including canine units, mounted officers and helicopters had combed the entire Jerusalem forest, which spans 310 acres (125 hectares) at the outskirts of the city, along with volunteers who wanted to help look for the youngster.

The Sofer Family flew to Israel to be in contact with authorities as the search proceeded. Yoel Sofer said his brother had gone out for a day-long hike during a study break.

"We just want him back. Whatever anyone can do to get him back. Please pray for him," Yoel Sofer pleaded.