The family of missing Israeli soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin reacted with anger and shock Saturday night to news that IDF troops were pulling out of Gaza while he remained missing, presumed kidnapped by Hamas.
At an emotional press conference outside their home in Kfar Saba, the family of Hadar, seized in Gaza on Friday, pleaded with the government not to abandon him.
The family, which is religious and did not listen to news during the Sabbath, said they were taken by complete surprise when they heard troops were leaving Gaza. They said they had not heard from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though they said this was probably because the Sabbath was only just over, and they were sure Netanyahu respected that, and was also doubtless extremely busy.
At any rate, they urged him to contact them and update them on the military’s plans.
In a press conference held shortly afterwards, Netanyahu said his “heart is with” Goldin’s family and that he would speak with them later in the evening. He noted that Israel’s forces were not ending their operations, simply redeploying, and said Israel “will make every effort to return its missing boys home.”
Hadar’s father Dr. Simha Goldin said he “can’t imagine that the IDF will abandon its combat soldier.”
“I am a reserve battalion commander. I did reserve duty until age 50… my personal commander was [IDF chief of staff] Benny Gantz and I know it’s impossible that he would give an order to leave [the Gaza Strip] while there’s a soldier inside…I know Givati Brigade Commander Ofer Winter. I can’t believe he would forsake an officer anywhere.”
“The soldiers we sent…my sons…went out to protect the people of the Gaza periphery,” Simha said. “I can’t believe the people of the Gaza periphery will lend a hand to the abandonment of a soldier in the field, who went out there to protect them.”
Goldin’s mother Hedva, said: “I demand that the state of Israel not leave Gaza until they bring my son back home.”
“He’s our smile,” Hedva said. “He’s the child who saw the good in everything.”
Goldin’s older sister, Ayelet, said that “If a captive soldier is left in Gaza, it’s a defeat,” and called for Goldin’s return.
“It’s important to say this… Hadar was sent by the country and was abducted by a terror organization and he’s alive. He’s alive now and I will not allow for any other terminology to enter the lexicon,” Ayelet said.
Hadar’s fiancée Edna addressed him directly, saying: “I love you and I miss you. I’m waiting for you, waiting to dance at our wedding.”
Goldin’s father told the press that the military knew what it needed to do — bring his son home.
“We’ve done more complicated things. We made it to Entebbe,” he said, referring to the 1976 rescue operation in Uganda which brought back 102 Israeli hostages.
“Hadar’s alive,” his brother, Tsur, said. “He went in alive, he’ll leave alive.”
“I will do everything for you,” said his brother Menahem, echoing the declaration that to leave him would be a defeat.
As far as is known, Goldin was injured in a blast by a suicide bomber who emerged from a tunnel opening, close to a major “attack tunnel” that the Givati force was demolishing, in Rafah on Friday morning, breaching a UN- and US-brokered truce. Two other soldiers — Major Benaya Sarel, 26, from Kiryat Arba, and 1st.-Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, from Jerusalem — were killed in the blast.
IDF sources on Saturday stressed, discouragingly, that Goldin was very close to the two soldiers who were killed. Seconds later, other Hamas gunmen joined the attack, and dragged Goldin into the tunnel opening.
An officer and two other soldiers dashed into the tunnel to try to thwart the kidnapping, to no avail, IDF sources said. Some of Goldin’s personal equipment was found.