JERUSALEM, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- A senior Israeli officer who serves in the West Bank warned Jewish settlers of what he said were Hamas plans to kidnap Israelis living in the area.
In a letter sent to the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon said Hamas headquarters in Damascus is encouraging local cells operating in the West Bank to abduct Jews and use them as bargaining chips to release Palestinians incarcerated in Israel.
Alon said the threats are based on intelligence compiled in recent months, as well as on details revealed by Palestinians arrested and questioned by Israeli security forces.
Details of the letter were reported by the Israeli media Friday.
Alon asked settler leaders to warn residents against hitchhiking.
"The threat of kidnapping is significant. We must especially remind youths to take safety precautions when hitchhiking," Alon stated in the letter, Haaretz said.
Settler leaders initiated meetings with residents during the week to inform them of the threats and asked them to remain alert.
Until now, efforts by terror cells to kidnap Jewish residents in the West Bank have been thwarted by the army, Alon said.