JERUSALEM, Israel -- In the first quarter of 2013, there have been 33 attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers serving in Judea and Samaria, up from 24 during the same period last year.
According to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service), Hamas cells operating in these areas are using every means at their disposal to kidnap soldiers to use as bargaining chips for the release of Arab prisoners, YNet reported Friday.
"Hamas realizes it will be difficult to manufacture rockets in the West Bank and launch them at Israel so it is opting for a much more advantageous method of operation," a senior officer in the IDF Central Command told YNet.
"We detect within Hamas the desire and capability needed for these kidnappings, as well as a lot of audacity," he continued. "So far we've been able to thwart the kidnapping attempts, but the scope is extraordinary," he said.
The IDF put strict rules in place years ago warning soldiers against hitchhiking. Arab kidnappers have gone to extraordinary means, including disguising themselves as Orthodox Jews, to abduct soldiers.
The officers said the lopsided prisoner exchange for former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit inspired the would-be kidnappers to keep trying. Israel released about 1,000 Palestinian Arab prisoners in exchange for Shalit, who had been held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for more than five years.