Today in History: Hamas Abducts Cpl. Ilan Saadon

Today, 23 years ago, Cpl. Ilan Saadon was hitchhiking on a road near his base. Hamas terrorists abducted him and headed for the Gaza Strip. They killed him during the ride. His body was buried in the area of Palmachim; it was found 7 years later, on August 12, 1996.

The Hamas terrorist organization was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1987. In the beginning of the first Intifada in the late 1980s, Yassin ordered his men to abduct and kill as many Israeli soldiers as they could. On May 3, 1989, Ilan and his friend hitched a ride in Re’em (Masmia) junction — common behavior in those days, since public transportation was inconvenient.

A white Subaru with Israeli license plates stopped by the junction. Inside the car, Hamas terrorists Mahmoud Mabhouh and Muhammad Nasser, disguised as orthodox Jews, offered only Ilan a ride, as there was space for only one more passenger. Ilan parted from his friend and got in the car.

Cpl. Ilan Saadon

Cpl. Ilan Saadon

Mabhouh and Nasser had planned to smuggle Ilan into the Gaza Strip and demand that Palestinian prisoners be released in exchange for the Israeli soldier. However, an IDF patrol car was in the area, and the terrorists instead turned north toward Palmachim.

Once at Palmachim, Ilan struggled with his abductors and tried to escape, but he was shot and killed. Mabhouh and Nasser buried Ilan in the area and then returned to the Gaza Strip.

Two days later, on May 5, 1989, Ilan was declared missing when he didn’t show up to his base in Latrun. Search and rescue teams looked everywhere for him. They discovered the white Subaru with Ilan’s blood stains and fingerprints, but his body was not found.

During their search for Ilan’s body, Israeli authorities discovered the body of another missing soldier, Sgt. Avi Sasportas, in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip. Avi was a medic in Maglan, an elite combat unit. On February 16, 1989, he hitched a ride from Hodaya Junction. He, too, was kidnapped and killed by two Hamas terrorists, who buried him near Givati Junction.

Sgt. Avi Sasportas

Sgt. Avi Sasportas

Seven years later, in the spring of 1996, Israeli authorities received two maps drawn by Mahmoud Nasser that revealed Ilan’s burial site. Reaching it was a challenge — in the years since Ilan’s abduction, a new road was paved in the area. Nonetheless, search teams tore up part of the road, and after many calculations and cross-referencing, they started digging.

On August 11, 1996, Ilan Saadon’s body was found Between Gan Rave interchange and Gan Soreq. He was laid to rest in the Military Cemetary of Ashkelon, in his hometown.

Cpl. Ilan Saadon's Mother With His Portrait

Cpl. Ilan Saadon's mother with his portrait (Credit: EPA)

Hamas Tactics

Since its founding more than two decades ago, Hamas leaders have encouraged their followers to kidnap IDF soldiers and use them as bargaining chips in exchange for prisoners incarcerated in Israel due to their terror activities.

Archive: Khaled Meshaal, Chief of Hamas

“I say to all armed factions: the way to free the prisoners is through swaps … An arrest for an arrest, and freedom for freedom. This is the way!” — Khaled Al-Batsh, senior leader of the Islamic Jihad, April 25, 2012

Hamas knows that Israel and the IDF value human life, and will do whatever it takes to bring every soldier home, in any condition. On October 18, 2011, Israel decided to release 1,027 palestinian prisoners in exchange of one soldier, SFC Gilad Shalit.

“The swap deal was a message to the (Israeli) occupation that the resistance and the Palestinian people will pursue every difficult avenue to break the chains of these heroes… We are in a battle for the prisoners, and we will either win, or we will win.”

Ismail Haniyeh, April 25, 2012

Ismail Haniyeh: Head of Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip

Omar Abu Sanina was one of the prisoner’s released in the Shalit deal. Recently, he sent a memory stick to his family in Judea and Samaria containing instructions on how to kidnap Israeli soldier.

“One should avoid hiding [the kidnapped soldier] in deserted places such as caves or forests, unless it’s their body or severed head. If dealing with a live person, which will need to be visited at least once a week (for supplying food etc.) it is best to hide them in a house, a farm, a workplace or similar.”

The IDF has adopted several new regulations as a response to Hamas’ tactics, banning any form of hitchhiking, teaching its soldiers Krav Maga and providing mace spray to all female soldiers. Although the IDF takes whatever precautions are possible, Hamas is continuing to do everything that it can to attack Israeli soldiers and civilians.