Abduction Prankster Denies Staging Kidnapping Intentionally

Hours after being released, prankster Niv Assaraf insists: If I were planning a kidnapping, I wouldn't have left all my stuff behind.

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Tova Dvorin and Meir Sela,

Niv Assaraf, arrested
Niv Assaraf, arrested
Hadas Parush/Flash90

22 year-old Niv Assaraf, the Be'er Sheva man who faked his own abduction to a national panic last week, claims that the incident was not pre-planned, he stated in a Monday afternoon press conference. 

"I had not planned to be abducted," he explained to reporters, adding that he had simply meant to "disappear" after getting an ominous call. 

"I planned to disappear and make them look for me," he added. "I slept in two T-shirts, there was no sleeping bag with me." 

Assaraf said that he did not understand the magnitude of what he did. 

"I had no contact with the world," he said. "I did not take my cell phone with me because I didn't want them to track me." 

"If I would have known the mess this would have caused I would not have stayed there [in the wadi where he was found - ed.]," he added. "I'm sorry for what happened." 

Assaraf stated that the motive behind the disappearing act was to escape threats from the mafia after he won a great deal of money gambling - contrary to earlier reports which instead stated that he was suffering from massive gambling debts. He feared for his life; he claimed that police did not help him or protect him. 

Assaraf stressed that he did not plan to stage a kidnapping, and said that if he was planning to stage a kidnapping he would not have left without money or any equipment. 

Both Niv Assaraf and accomplice Eran Nagauker were released from police custody on Monday, but only under several conditions. Nagauker called the Moked 100 police hotline to report Assaraf missing on Thursday, claiming he had entered the hostile Arab village of Beit Anoun to get spare parts due to a flat tire. The call prompted a mass IDF search that cost hundreds of thousands of shekels; Assaraf was later found alive and safe, hiding in a ditch. 

Both are banned from leaving Israel for 30 days, according to Army Radio, and are barred from entering Judea and Samaria for six months.

Judge Chen Avital determined that each of them will be required to deposit 3,000 shekel ($765) in cash and pay a 10,000 shekel ($2550) bail.

The two will be indicted on Sunday; Nagauker, who is a driver in the IAF, is also set to be dishonorably discharged in coming weeks. 

Hevron District Police Commander Yisrael Tal stated on "Good Morning Israel" Monday morning that Assaraf's motives were likely to escape creditors; he was thousands of shekels deep in gambling debt. 

"I cannot say for sure whether he meant to actually get kidnapped or simply disappear," Tal stated. "[Either way,] this is an act which you just don't do, especially here [Hevron area - ed.], and especially in Israel." 

Nagauker took several hours to interrogate, he added, and the delay from the time it took to "break" him between the Police, IDF, and Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) added to the burden and costs of security forces being deployed throughout the area.