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Massive Search for Young Woman Soldier Last Seen Hitchhiking Near Haifa

A massive search for a young woman soldier was extended from the Haifa Bay area to all of northern Israel today, so far without finding a trace of 20-year-old Hadass Kedmi of Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk who has been missing since last Thursday.

The kibbutz, located on Haifa Bay, has offered a 1 million Shekel ($2,000) reward for any information as to her whereabouts. Kibbutz members and local Arab villagers have volunteered to beef-up police and military search parties. The authorities fear she may have been the victim of terrorists.

Kedmi and another young woman soldier were hitchhiking from their army base near Tel Aviv to their homes in the Haifa area Thursday. Kedmi was last seen when she left the car at the outskirts of Haifa to pick up another ride in the direction of Kfar Masaryk. A male soldier disappeared last month while hitchhiking in the same general area and a number of civilion youths also have been reported missing in the vicinity in recent months.

Police said yesterday that they did not rule out the coincidence between last Thursday’s date — November 29 — and the possibility that Kedmi was kidnapped by terrorists. November 29 was the 37th anniversary of the United Nations decision to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. It has always been marked by protests, frequently violent, on the part of Palestinian Arabs and a rising incidence of terrorist activity.

The army has repeatedly worned women soldiers not to hitchhike in civilian cars after dark. But recent orders requiring all service personnel to work an extra hour at military camps and bases, an economy measure, has made it difficult for women soldiers to avoid seeking rides after dark. The army now plans to issue women soldiers with small tear gas cannisters as a weapon to fight off assault.

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