Niv Assaraf
Niv Assaraf Facebook

The 22-year-old Israeli who was reported missing and feared kidnapped was located safe and sound near Kiryat Arba on Thursday night.

The name of the man was cleared for publication shortly before it was announced that he was found: Niv Assaraf, 22, of Be’er Sheva.

The IDF said that it had ruled out a terrorist kidnapping in Assaraf’s disappearance and said that Assaraf’s friend, who phoned authorities to report about the disappearance, made up the story.

“The incident near Hevron is of a criminal nature,” IDF Spokesman Motti Almoz said.

"The investigation will be closed soon. The friend probably made up a false report. The friend will soon disclose [Assaraf’s] location and we will find him. Terrorist activity has been ruled out," he said.

"The forces are returning to normal and the investigation is being transferred to the police," said Almoz.

It is believed that Assaraf and his friend may have played a prank on authorities, as Assaraf was located with a sleeping bag and non-perishable food items shortly after Almoz's statement.

The incident began on Thursday afternoon around 4:00 p.m., when a call to the 100 emergency hotline of the Judea and Samaria district police was received from an Israeli youth, who said he and his friend had gotten stuck in their car due to a flat tire between Kiryat Arba and Beit Anoun.

The friend of the youth who called went to request work tools from the Arab village so as to change the tire, but never returned, and the caller said he had been waiting for half-an-hour.

A police source revealed that the car did not have a puncture as was claimed in the emergency phone call. The IDF confirmed this, with the twist leading police to appraise there may have been criminal motivations for the man entering the village.

The Judea and Samaria district police said on Thursday night they planned criminal charges against the two over the prank.

"The Judea and Samaria district sees this prank as very serious. Wasting resources and giving all the security systems the runaround is very serious, especially considering the current sensitive security reality,” they said.