Body found, confirmed to be missing N.J. man Aaron Sofer [UPDATED]

The search for Aaron Sofer, missing in Israel since last Friday, was called off when authorities located a body they believe is the missing American student.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   Updated Aug. 28, 2014 at 2:21 PM

JERUSALEM, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- [UPDATE 2:00 p.m. EDT]

Israeli officials confirmed the body found in the Jerusalem Forest Thursday was indeed that of missing American student Aaron Sofer.

Israeli spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said forensic investigators were working to determine the cause of death.

Meir Lichtenstein, a Lakewood, N.J. committeeman and a friend of the Sofer family, told reporters the family believes the death was accidental.

"There is some closure to the fact that this may very well have been an accidental death as opposed to their son being abducted," he said.

[Original story follows]

Israeli authorities believe they have found the body of missing American student Aaron Sofer, who disappeared last Friday while on a hike near Jerusalem Forest.

Police called off the search for Sofer, 23, after a body was discovered Thursday afternoon in the Ein Kerem neighborhood near the forest. A Sofer family spokesman declined to comment on reports.

A forensics team has been called to the scene where the body was discovered, said Israeli spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

"He was hiking with a friend, making their way up a hill, and they lost contact," he said. Investigators are working to determine if he had a hiking accident or if he had been kidnapped, as authorities had begun to believe was the case.

Sofer's parents, Moshe and Chulda, had flown to Israel from their home in Lakewood, N.J., to assist with the search, and had offered a 100,000 shekel ($28,000) reward for information leading to finding their son.

Sofer disappeared while hiking with a friend last Friday. The friend had told authorities the two were separated while attempting to navigate a steep downhill slope.

Police have spent the past six days combing the 310-acre Jerusalem Forest, and had expanded the search to nearby Arab villages and Jerusalem neighborhoods earlier Thursday.

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