x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Palestinians return 'lost' Israeli soldier in West Bank to his unit

The Israeli army confirmed that the soldier appeared to have become lost, but said they were still investigating how he was able to regain contact with his unit.

JERUSALEM // An Israeli soldier who became separated from his unit during an operation in a Palestinian West Bank village was safely returned to his fellow troops by residents, Israeli media reported yesterday.

The Israeli army confirmed that the soldier appeared to have become lost, but said they were still investigating how he was able to regain contact with his unit.

"From an initial investigation he was separated from his unit on Wednesday night but the rest of the matter is under investigation," an army spokesman said.

According to Israeli media reports, the soldier entered the village in a convoy of jeeps, but at some point left his vehicle.

When the convoy left the village, close to Ramallah, the soldier found himself stranded.

Residents then escorted him to a nearby military base, where he was reunited with his unit, the reports said.

The army confirmed that the incident occurred in the village of Budrus, which gained a measure of fame for its non-violent fight against the route of Israel's security barrier.

The village was among the first to organise a demonstration movement against the controversial barrier, and was featured in a 2009 documentary.

Palestinian militants have in the past made clear their desire to kidnap Israeli soldiers, in part to use them as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

In 2006, militants in the Gaza Strip captured the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in a cross-border raid, holding him for more than five years before his release in October 2011 as part of a deal that saw Israel free 1,027 Palestinians.