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Body Found in Jerusalem Forest May Be That of New Jersey Student


"Forensics at the scene examining."

Aaron Sofer (Image source: Facebook)

Update 1:45 p.m.: CNN is reporting that Israeli police confirmed the body found is that of Aaron Sofer.

Israeli police said they have found the body of a man near the Jerusalem Forest where a massive search has been underway for a missing New Jersey student.

Aaron Sofer, 23, of Lakewood, New Jersey, disappeared Friday while hiking with a friend in the forest. Hundreds of police officers, volunteers, helicopters and a canine search and rescue unit traversed the isolated area outside Jerusalem but had come up empty.

“Police confirm a body found in the Jerusalem forest. Forensics at the scene examining. Area closed off,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld tweeted Thursday. “Police forensics in the area looking into ID of body and the circumstances of death. Investigation continuing."

Police forensics team examines a body found near the Jerusalem forest Thursday. (Image source: Twitter/MickyRosenfeld) Police forensics team examines a body found near the Jerusalem forest Thursday. (Image via Twitter/@MickyRosenfeld)

Police did not officially identify the body as Sofer’s, but Hatzolah Israel, a volunteer group involved in the search, tweeted that it was him.

“On scene in Jerusalem forest where Missing Body of Aron Sofer was found, missing since Friday,” tweeted Hatzolah, which means “rescue” in Hebrew.

Sofer had been in Israel studying at a yeshiva, or an Orthodox Jewish seminary.

Sofer’s parents arrived in Israel earlier this week as the search continued. His family said Tuesday that the FBI was aiding the efforts to find Aaron, but did not detail how.

Fueling concerns of the worst-case scenario, Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found dead in the same forest in June after being kidnapped, in what's believed to be a revenge killing for the deaths of three Israeli teens earlier in the month.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Tuesday that police had not ruled out that a terrorist attack could be behind Sofer’s disappearance, including investigating the possibility of “nationalistic” motives.

Sofer and his friend were separated while moving down a steep hill in the forest. The friend alerted the police when Sofer – who is a student at a religious seminary – did not appear during a time on Friday afternoon traditionally used by observant Jews to prepare for the Sabbath.

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