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Body found in Israel identified as missing student from Lakewood

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N.J. Burkett reports from Lakewood, New Jersey where the boy was from. (WABC)

An official has confirmed that the body found near a forest in Israel is that of a missing student from New Jersey.

Israeli Spokesman Micki Rosenfeld, who is on site where the body is, has confirmed it is indeed Aaron Sofer, of Lakewood. He was found in Ein Kerem, a neighborhood right next to the Jerusalem forest. He was not buried, but found lying on the ground. Rosenfeld couldn't yet say the cause of death. Forensic teams are on site.

The body was found in a shallow 2-foot ditch that ran along the side of a road in the neighborhood. There was a house approximately 400 meters away from his body, and his hat and glasses were found about 150 yards away.

Forensic teams cannot determine the death, citing decomposition for hampering efforts to rule out if he was attacked.

They want to do an autopsy, but given that the family is Orthodox, they may not allow one.

New Jersey State Sen. Bob Singer, who represents Lakewood, confirmed earlier that a body was found near where the 23-year-old went missing.

Sofer and a friend went on a hike in the forest last Friday, and his friend lost sight of him down a ravine. His family had feared that Sofer may have been kidnapped.

A massive search was underway, including Israeli police with dogs and helicopters along with volunteers. But there had been no trace of Sofer, an ultra-Orthodox student at a yeshiva, until Thursday.

WATCH: Sofer's parents make a passionate plea for information

That forest is also where a 16-year-old Arab-Israeli was found murdered in July in revenge for the murders of three religious students abducted by Hamas operatives in June.

Sofer's mother and father have flown to Israel.

Police say they are pursuing all avenues in their investigation, including the possibility that Sofer may have fallen victim to an attack by Palestinian militants.

At a news conference Tuesday, New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith said U.S. and Israeli officials are "leaving no stone unturned" in their search for the student.

A somber vigil was held Wednesday night, with members of the Hasidic Jewish community gathering in Lakewood to pray for Sofer.

It's still not clear whether he was abducted or simply had an accident.

A web site has been set up to raise funds for the ongoing search, as well as to raise money for an award for information that leads to finding Aaron.
Related Topics:
missing personisraelkidnappingLakewood
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