'Terrorist Motives' Behind Kidnap of Israeli Taxi Driver, Sources Say

July 7, 2008 - 8:13 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel believes that a taxi driver who disappeared near Jerusalem on Friday was kidnapped by terrorists, and it is holding the Palestinian Authority responsible for his safe return.

Searches were continuing on Monday to locate Eliahu Gurel, 61, from the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. He disappeared on Friday evening after having taken a fare to Jerusalem. His abandoned car was found a short time later near the Jerusalem Arab village of Beit Hanina with the engine running and his money and belongings inside. Police did not report any signs of a struggle.

No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but officials believe that Gurel is being held by terrorists from PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called Palestinian Authority security minister Mohammed Dahlan on Sunday to ask for his help in returning Gurel alive. Mofaz said he had "made clear to the Palestinians that the responsibility for his well-being lies with them."

PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas phoned Mofaz later and said that he would do all that he could to obtain Gurel's release.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad had earlier threatened to kidnap Israelis if all Palestinian prisoners are not released from Israeli jails. But after Gurel's apparent kidnapping, both groups denied any responsibility for the abduction and said they were referring only to the kidnap of soldiers, not civilians.

Gurel called home on Saturday morning and said he was all right, but then the phone was disconnected.

Later, his wife reported that a man with an Arabic accent had phoned and said Gurel would not be harmed. No ransom demands were made.

Earlier, security sources had feared that Gurel had been kidnapped to use as a bargaining chip to obtain the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in Israeli jails.