Man Who Claimed to Kidnap Soldier Was a Fraud and Has Been Arrested

Efficient intelligence work by the police and security services has led to the arrest of a Gaza Strip resident who claimed last week to be holding missing Israel Defense Force Sgt. Avi Sasportas.

But the man appears to have no real connection to the soldier’s disappearance, and the paratroop medic’s whereabouts remain a mystery.

One of the most widespread searches ever held in Israel was scaled down and virtually called off last week, when no traces of the missing soldier were found.

But intelligence work continued. On Monday, police announced that a 35-year-old resident of the Mughazi refugee camp, near Gaza, had been arrested.

He had phoned the Agence France-Presse news agency, Israel Radio and Gaza lawyer Fayez Abu-Rahme, claiming that an unknown terrorist organization held Sasportas and would shortly be issuing a nine-minute videotape recording of him in captivity. The videotape never materialized.

The man demanded the freeing of Palestinians arrested during the intifada and compensation for the families of West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs killed during the uprising in the territories.

But his interrogators discovered that the man had no connection with Sasportas or his disappearance. He allegedly had tried his bluff to effect the release of friends held in Israeli detention centers for intifada-related activities.

Sasportas was last seen Feb. 16 at a road junction near a military base in the Gaza Strip.

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