Israel has announced it was resuming efforts to solve the disappearance of Guy Hever, who went missing in the Golan Heights in 1997.
According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, “targeted searches will take place in the Golan Heights and Jordan Valley highlands.”
“Over the years, many efforts have been made to locate the missing soldier, which continue until today,” the statement continued, adding that “a number of units are working together in the hopes of discovering new evidence that would shed light on the case. The State of Israel and the IDF are deeply committing to its missing sons and those in captivity. The IDF will continue to do everything in its power to resolve the case of Guy Hever’s disappearance.”
While it is unclear if the searches are based on new intelligence, Israel has carried out extensive and similar searches almost every year since Hever went missing.
Last year, navy divers searched water reservoirs in the Golan and in 2014 Israel concentrated searches in two minefields near Had Nes, close to where Hever had been deployed.
During the 2014 searches, Israel torched the minefields and looked for irregularities in the subsequent blasts. Israel had been hoping to find Hever’s rifle, which would not have decomposed in the nearly 20 years since his disappearance.
Hever, who was 20 at the time of his disappearance, was last seen walking away from his base on August 17, 1997 carrying only his Galil rifle, dog tag and ID card. His base, Camp Thunder, was less than 24 kilometers from the Syrian border and hours after his disappearance, a birdwatcher reported seeing a uniformed person on the border.
A few months after his disappearance, another witness, a psychologist from a community near Hever’s base contacted the family and the police, telling them that hours after Hever left his base, she had seen a soldier in uniform at the Katzabia junction near the northern Golan town of Katzrin.
In 2005, German citizen Marion Keunecke was arrested in Aleppo, Syria. Keunecke had lived in Israel for more than two decades and claimed to have been shortly interrogated in Hebrew by a thin, dark-skinned man. Keunecke was reportedly unaware of Hever’s case until two years later, when she saw his picture. She subsequently passed on her information to Israeli authorities as well as Hever’s mother, Rina.
In a letter to Hever’s mother, Keunecke wrote, “I met your son, missing soldier Guy Hever, during an interrogation on May 3, 2005, around 22:00… in Damascus, Syria, with 90% certainty. Of course I cannot say 100% because his name was not mentioned.”
His family believes that he may be in Syria, releasing a statement in 2008 saying that it is “the Israeli government’s opinion that he was kidnapped to Syria,” adding that “in February 2007 a Syrian organization claimed it was holding Guy and wanted to exchange him for Syrian prisoners being held in Israel.”
That group, the Resistance Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights had claimed it was holding an Israeli soldier captured on the Golan Heights and would free him in return for Golan Druze imprisoned in Israel. But this group’s claim is not the first, as other groups have claimed responsibility for his kidnapping. The authenticity of the statement is still questioned.
With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the family hopes that defectors might provide new information. Hever’s family and IDF officials have engaged in diplomatic efforts, meeting with Red Cross and UN representatives as well as former US president Jimmy Carter, hoping to receive any information from Damascus about the missing soldier. They never received any response.
Hever’s disappearance is one of the most enduring mysteries in Israel.