The Israeli army is currently combing northern Israel for Oleg Shayhat, 20, who disappeared two days ago.
Shayhat was in uniform and armed when he was last seen by a fellow hitchhiker travelling in a car near the village of Cana.
No ransom demands or claims of responsibility have been made, but it looks increasingly likely that he was captured by Palestinians.
“We are not ruling out any scenario and we have circulated a profile Oleg Shayhat, who was reported missing after leaving his base in Safed to head to his home in Nazareth Elit,” police spokesman Gil Kleiman said.
Shayhat’s family, friends and army comrades said he was not the sort to go absent without leave or not stay in touch with home.
“He’s the type to call home every 10 minutes to tell his mother where he is,” his cousin George told the Israeli paper, Ha’aretz.
The Israeli military recently issued an order forbidding soldiers from hitching rides with strangers following the 11 July kidnapping of an Israeli taxi driver in Ramallah.
But despite the ban his cousin said Shayhat was in the habit of hitching rides from his base near the Lebanon border to a junction near Cana.
Jihad leader abducted
Israel still arrests Palestinians
Meanwhile, Israeli troops have abducted a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the northern West Bank, according to an official from the Palestinian resistance group.
The army kidnapped Ahmad Shabani in the village of Fahma, southwest of Jenin, on Thursday morning, said Bassam al-Saadi.
He said such arrests could prompt his movement to reconsider the truce it announced on 29 June, together with other major Palestinian groups.
“Islamic Jihad is thinking of ending the truce because the Israeli army is continuing to arrest our leaders and enter Palestinian towns and villages every day,” Saadi said.
“The army does not respect our truce and the Israeli government is not even considering the release of Jihad and Hamas prisoners,” he said.
The three-month suspension of anti-Israeli attacks declared last month was conditional on the release of all estimated 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
“Islamic Jihad is thinking of ending the truce…”
– Bassam al Saadi
But so far, Israel has only agreed to the release of 350 prisoners and ruled out freeing members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
In another development, an Israeli borderguard shot and killed a Bedouin on Thursday morning who was carrying Palestinian workers in his vehicle in southern Israel.
“According to preliminary findings, the driver refused to stop at a roadblock and was killed by a bullet which a borderguard fired,” police spokesman Gil Kleiman said.
He said an investigation has been launched to determine whether the policeman fired warning shots before aiming at the vehicle.
Dozens of Bedouins gathered near the scene of the killing in the Negev desert to protest, accusing Israeli policemen of being “trigger-happy”.
The death brings to 3,384 the number of people killed since the start of the Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, at the end of September 2000, including 2,549 Palestinians and 774 Israelis.