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Cancel Turkey deal, plead families of missing Israelis after Ban talks

UN chief meets with parents of fallen soldiers whose bodies are held by Hamas, family of Ethiopian Israeli believed captive in Gaza

Parents of late Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin at a protest tent outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, June 27, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Parents of late Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin at a protest tent outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, June 27, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Members of the government should vote against a newly signed rapprochement agreement between Israel and Turkey, the families of Israeli soldiers and civilians missing in the Gaza Strip said Tuesday, after talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with the relatives of two fallen Israeli soldiers whose remains are being held in the Hamas-ruled Strip, as well as the family of one of two Israelis also believed to be captives of the Palestinian terror group.

The families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in action during the 2014 Gaza war, had pushed for the return of their bodies to be included in Israel’s rapprochement deal with Turkey. The deal, which was signed earlier Tuesday, does not include Hamas returning either the bodies or its two prisoners, as hoped by the families of the missing.

Zahava Shaul, the mother of Oron, and Ilan Mengitsu — whose brother Avraham has reportedly been hostage in the Strip since he entered it in September 2014 — continued to lobby the high-level security cabinet to vote against the deal Wednesday.

“We entered hopeful and left disappointed,” said Shaul. “Don’t sign the deal with Turkey,” she appealed to Israel’s ministers regarding Wednesday’s non-binding vote.

Still, the Goldin family was optimistic after the meeting, telling Channel 2 television that Ban had framed the issue as a “humanitarian” one, and urged Israel to do the same. “This has given us a lot of strength,” Simcha Goldin, Hadar’s father, told a press conference.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, June 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Mengistu, meanwhile, said the prime minister “gave me explanations about which I cannot elaborate,” according to the Ynet news website. “We still think they are entirely ignoring the boys. Citizens must not be abandoned. Don’t go along with the deal.”

Earlier, Netanyahu asked Ban to use his position in the international community to help secure the release of the presumed captives and the soldiers’ remains.

Avraham Mengistu, undated. (Courtesy of the Mengistu family via AP)
Avraham Mengistu, undated. (Courtesy of the Mengistu family via AP)

“I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for agreeing to meet with the Goldin, Shaul and Mengistu families,” Netanyahu said at a joint press conference ahead of their meeting together at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Calling Hamas a terrorist organization with “genocidal aims,” Netanyahu said the group “is cruelly and illegally holding the remains of our soldiers and holding our citizens. I ask you to use your standing to help return home these soldiers and these citizens.”

IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)
IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)

Regarding the Turkey deal, Netanyahu is expected to face stiff opposition during Wednesday’s security cabinet vote.

According to Channel 2, only the prime minister, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Housing Minister Yoav Galant support the agreement, while Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beytenu, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home are opposed.

Still on the fence are three of Netanyahu’s Likud colleagues: Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.

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