Ahead of UN vote, Netanyahu says he hasn’t forgotten captives held by Hamas

‘We are committed to bringing them home,’ PM vows regarding Israeli citizens and soldiers’ bodies in the hands of Palestinian terror group in Gaza

Left to right: Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avraham Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)
Left to right: Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avraham Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he has not forgotten Israeli citizens and the remains of two soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza, after language calling for their return was not included in a proposed United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the Palestinian terror group.

Speaking at a ceremony honoring exemplary Mossad operatives, Netanyahu said he hoped a majority would support the US-backed measure denouncing Hamas when it is voted on Thursday evening.

“We expect not just condemnation of Hamas, but also the return of our killed soldiers and missing civilians. They are always at the forefront of our minds, as is every man and woman who goes on operations on behalf of the country,” Netanyahu said.

“They are dear to us and we are committed to bringing them home.”

The prime minister’s comments came after the parents of one of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers, whose body has been held by Hamas since the 2014 war, appealed to Netanyahu to include mention of their son’s fate in the UN resolution.

If adopted, the resolution would be the first General Assembly vote to condemn the Palestinian terrorist group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on December 2, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

The latest draft of the resolution, entitled “Activities of Hamas and Other Militant Groups in Gaza,” also makes explicit mention of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another terror group with a significant presence in the Gaza Strip.

The draft “condemns Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk” and demands that “Hamas and other militant actors including Palestinian Islamic Jihad cease all provocative actions and violent activity, including by using airborne incendiary devices.”

It further condemns Hamas’s use of resources in Gaza to “construct military infrastructure, including tunnels to infiltrate Israel and equipment to launch rockets into civilian areas, when such resources could be used to address the critical needs of the civilian population.”

Hisham al-Sayed, who wandered into Gaza in April 2015 and has been missing and believed held by Hamas ever since. (Army Radio)

But it does not mention the two Israeli civilians and two bodies of fallen soldiers held by Hamas in the territory. The civilians, both believed to be mentally ill — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The two soldiers are Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, both killed in the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.

In a letter to Netanyahu, Hadar’s parents Leah and Simcha Goldin noted, “In an unusual step, and after a great deal of effort, the American administration is bringing for the UN General Assembly’s approval a sharp message of rebuke at Hamas’s activities in Gaza.

“It’s inconceivable that such a condemnation does not include the IDF soldiers that Hamas is holding in Gaza,” they charged.

Leah and Simcha Goldin, parents of late Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin, attend a Knesset committee meeting in Jerusalem on February 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Addressing the General Assembly’s annual debate on the “Question of Palestine” on Thursday, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon urged the international community to vote in favor of condemning Hamas for the first time in the body’s history.

“Every year, the United Nations adopts at least 20 resolutions specifically to condemn Israel. Not a single one of these resolutions or any GA resolution at all has ever included Hamas,” he said.

The draft resolution also calls on all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law, “including in regards to the protection of the civilian population.”

It encourages “tangible steps towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation,” as well as “concrete steps to reunite the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority and ensure its effective functioning in the Gaza Strip.”

On Wednesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sent an open letter to General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa and to its member states, slamming the US-sponsored resolution, arguing it was meant to “delegitimize Palestinian resistance.”

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