In very sad news, it was announced today that the remains of IDF soldier Majdi Halabi who has been missing for 7 years, were found in a forest in northern Israel, not far from his home.
The remains of IDF soldier Majdy Halabi, who went missing in May 2005, have been found in a forest near Isfiya.
The remains were found two weeks ago, not far from where Halabi was last seen. Halabi’s family had asked that the search operation be resumed after the Carmel Fire, which left the forest floor more exposed.
Majdi Halabi left his Daliyat al-Karmel home headed to the IDF base in Haifa, where he was serving, on May 24, 2005. He used an ATM machine in the city, purchased a can of soda and arrived at a hitchhikers’ station in the town. He was last seen by a relative passing by in the area. He has been missing ever since.
Two days later his family received word from the army that Majadi was missing. A large-scale search operation was launched. The soldier was officially declared missing on May 30, six days after his disappearance. Over the years, police have established several teams to investigate the disappearance.
The Born to Be Free foundation took part in the search efforts and declared a $10 million reward to anyone who would bring forward information on Halabi’s whereabouts. Photos of the missing soldier were also posted online and distributed in Arab countries.
Halabi’s father, Mazmeh, told Ynet: “This is very difficult. We always had faith and we never lost hope. I want to thank all the security forces – the IDF and the police, and the people of Israel.”
“This is it now. We believe in fate. This is a very difficult blow and we’re in a difficult state but we thank all those who stood by us and supported us.”
Nurit Bublil, a DNA specialist with the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, told Ynet that the institute was first given the remains for testing in September.
“We received samples in September for DNA profiling, which is a lengthy process… Over the years we tested hundreds of remains against the original DNA sample,” she said, referring to DNA samples all IDF soldiers are required to provide the military upon enlisting.
“The military provided the original DNA sample in 2008 and we can now say, in all certainty, that it’s a match.”
The most eerie part of the story follows:
By a bizarre twist of fate, Ibrahim Kozli, 26, who stumbled across the missing soldier’s remains, was a childhood friend of Halabi’s.
Kozli was in the midst of clearing work for the Jewish National Fund, which has been heading the Carmel Forest’s rehabilitation project.
The Daliyat al-Karmel resident told Ynet that the remains became visible after he removed tree debris from the area.
“We were standing 10 meters away and couldn’t see anything. It wasn’t until I pulled (the trees) away that we saw him. If it wasn’t for the fire I don’t think we would have found him,” he told Ynet.
Kozli said his acquaintance with Halabi dates back to their school days in Daliyat al-Karmel.
“We knew each other from school. He was a good guy, he never got into any trouble… This is a time of mixed emotions. It’s very sad that Majdy is dead, but at least now his family knows. Maybe his parents can find some peace.”
With Halabi’s body found, there are now five missing IDF soldiers: Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman who went missing after the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub; Ron Arad, who was captured in Lebanon in 1986 and Guy Hever who has been missing since August 1997.
IDF soldier Majdy Halabi will be laid to rest on noon Friday, in Isfiya’s Military Cemetery.
In an interview on Hebrew Ynet (click on the 2nd video down the page), Kozli says that he saw “a rope and a shirt” and that the criminal identification unit found “a knife stuck in the tree trunk” near the remains. Whether that’s connected to Majdi’s death or not remains to be seen but it certainly sounds suspicious.
Even more tragically for the family, almost exactly a year ago Majdi’s brother Adham was killed in a car crash.
May the Halabi family find comfort from their distress. May Majdi Halabi rest in peace, and if his death proves to be not an accident, may his perpetrators be brought to justice very soon.
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