Kidnapped students
Kidnapped studentsCourtesy of the families

One of the three youths abducted Thursday night called the police hotline immediately after the abduction - but was ignored as police thought the call was a prank, reports IDF Radio Sunday.

The call was received at 10:25 p.m. The youth whispered: "We've been abducted! We are being kidnapped."

The call lasted about two minutes and additional noises could be heard in it. It is being investigated by the Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet).

This information was under a gag order, which was ifted Sunday.

A source in the Israel Police said that the hotline did not take the call seriously and thought it was one of the numerous calls it receives from hostile Arabs who seek to overload it with false alarms. It was only when a brother of one of the abducted boys arrived at the police station that they understood the call had been real.

A senior IDF official told reporters Sunday afternoon that in the army's estimation, the three kidnapped teenagers taken Thursday night by still-unidentified captors are still alive, and are being held somewhere in the Judean Hills. "The IDF is thoroughly familiar with Hamas' infrastructure in Hevron," he assured.

So far, no authenticated source has taken responsibility for the kidnappings. Flyers that were circulated in Hevron on Friday claiming responsibility in the name of an unknown local terror group were thought not to be authentic.

Police failures

This latest explosive revelations over the poor handling of the police investigation is not the first.

On Saturday night, it was revealed that even after apparently verifying the genuine nature of the call, police in the Jewish town of Kiryat Arba near Hevron - where the boys are believed to be held - neglected to alert the military for more than an hour, losing valuable time in the process.

Kiryat Arba police were apparently informed of the kidnapping shortly after the abduction took place on Thursday evening. Police forces instantly set up a checkpoint to make sure that the boys would not leave Hevron, sources said - but did not actually inform the IDF of the kidnapping until several hours later, at nearly 4:00 am Friday. 

An investigation shows that two of the boys - Gidon Sha'ar and Naftali Frenkel, both 16 - left the Kfar Etzion yeshiva in Gush Etzion at 10:00 pm Thursday, and notified their parents around that time that they would make their way home to Talmon and Nof Ayalon respectively.

Eyewitnesses have stated that a short time later, they saw the two teens standing at the Alon Shvut intersection, trying to find a ride. The third teen, 19-year old Eyal Yifrah, told friends he was waiting for a ride around the same time, at about 9:40 p.m. 

For political and financial reasons, buses in Judea and Samaria are infrequent, and hitchhiking home has become a way of life for residents across Judea and Samaria and is a widely accepted - and common - practice. Car travel is too expensive for many families, due to both a 150%sales tax on new vehicles in Israel and gas prices topping 7.66 shekel per liter ($6.50 per gallon).  

According to Walla! news, the first inklings of a problem had been reported to police, or IDF officials, sometime prior to the first police report filed on the abduction at 3:00 am Friday. A command post and checkpoint was established as soon as the police report was made, the source said, but the unit failed to report the incident to the IDF until over an hour later; the Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet) was then notified shortly thereafter. 

Moreover, according to the report, the Judea-Samaria District Police were only notified of the early-morning call from concerned parents well into Friday morning; only still later was it clarified that the complaint indicated a kidnapping in Gush Etzion. 

Criticism has begun to be fired at the police forces for tarrying in the report, as time is crucial in a kidnapping case. 

Nevertheless, at least one security expert has offered a glimmer of hope, saying that the length of time the boys have been in captivity does not necessarily make their chances of survival lower.

On Saturday evening, the Judea-Samaria District police responded to the claims.

"There are a lot of details related to the investigation of the kidnapping and so, at the present time, we are not responding, confirming, nor denying any detail of the investigation, which is being conducted viaan enormous and centralized effort with the IDF and Shin Bet."