BEIRUT

Middle East

Jerusalem police search for missing NJ student

Israeli police officers shoot a stun grenade towards Palestinians in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli police said Tuesday they are searching for a young New Jersey religious student who went missing during a hike in a forest outside occupied Jerusalem last week.

23-year-old Aaron Sofer of Lakewood, New Jersey, has been missing since Friday when he went on a hike with a friend in the Jerusalem Forest, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld said that police have launched an extensive search for Sofer, who is an ultra-Orthodox student at a yeshiva - a Jewish religious school. Sofer's parents have flown to Israel.

On Monday, New Jersey politicians called for more help from both the U.S. and Israeli governments in the search for Sofer. U.S. Congressman Chris Smith and other local officials in New Jersey were planning a news conference for Tuesday in Lakewood to seek help in finding the student.

Rosenfeld said he was looking into reports that Sofer was with a companion when he disappeared.

He said the police were pursuing all avenues in their investigation, including the possibility that Sofer may have fallen victim to an attack by Palestinian militants.

The crisis between Israelis and Palestinians has spiked in recent weeks with the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which erupted on July 8.

That war stemmed from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank by Hamas operatives in June, which triggered a massive Israeli arrest campaign in the West Bank, followed by an increase in rocket fire from Gaza.

In an apparent revenge attack, rightwing Israeli Jews kidnapped and burned to death a young Palestinian boy near Jerusalem in early July.

 

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