The Defense Ministry on Friday informed the families of two IDF soldiers killed in Gaza in 2014 and whose bodies have not been recovered that they are to be classified as “fallen soldiers with the status of missing prisoners.” Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul were previously classified as “fallen soldiers whose burial place is unknown.”
The remains of both soldiers are being held by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza.
The ministry decision was taken following a request from the Goldin family, who argued that the previous classification sent the message that Israel viewed Hadar’s case as closed even though his body had not yet been recovered, the Ynet news website reported. According to the report, the new definition is intended to send the message that Israel will do everything in its power to secure the return of the two bodies.
Shaul’s family responded angrily to the change, expressing dismay at having learned about it through the media.
“It’s unreasonable that a family in our situation would find out through the press,” they said in a statement to the media, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman should examine the flaws in the system and move to change them.
“To us, it was always clear that he should be classified as a missing prisoner of war; we’ve asked for this in the past, and if they’ve found it appropriate the change of status, that’s significant. But the way it was done was completely unacceptable,” Shaul’s family said.
Shaul was killed July 20, 2014, along with six other soldiers, when his armored personnel carrier was hit in the eastern Gaza neighborhood of Shejaiya.
Goldin, an officer in the Givati Brigade, was killed on August 1, 2014, near Rafah during an operation to find and destroy Hamas tunnels.
On Monday, Hadar Goldin’s father, Simcha, urged the Israeli government to withhold humanitarian aid to Gaza until the two bodies are released.
“All humanitarian aid which will ease the suffering of the Gazan civilians and the treatment of all Hamas officials who are sitting in our prisons should be conditional upon our sons being brought to, and buried in, Israel,” Simcha Goldin said, according to Ynet.
“There is an obligation to return every IDF soldier to the land of Israel, to release him or to bury him in national soil. This is the obligation of the public, this is the obligation of the army, and this is the obligation of defense,” Goldin said at a monument unveiling for Sgt. Dor Chaim Nini, 20, a Givati Brigade soldier killed by Hezbollah fire on the northern border in January 2015.
“The entire nation of Israel is waiting for the return of the fallen soldiers so that they can be laid to rest in Israel,” Simcha Goldin added.