The parents of an IDF soldier whose remains are believed held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Sunday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not doing anything to secure the return of their son’s body.
After meeting with Netanyahu for a briefing on the efforts to return the bodies of two IDF soldiers missing in Gaza, Simcha and Leah Goldin expressed their regret over what they described as the lack of progress. Also present at the meeting were relatives of IDF soldier Oron Shaul.
Hamas is believed to be holding the remains of IDF soldiers Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies were captured by the terror group after they were killed in Gaza during the 2014 war. It is also assumed to be holding Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who each entered Gaza of their own accord.
“Four years after the kidnapping, Netanyahu is not demanding the boys be returned and again is agreeing to a ceasefire which Hamas can choose when to violate [the truce] and when to kidnap more soldiers,” the Goldins said in a statement.
Israel is reportedly in the middle of negotiations, brokered by intermediaries Egypt and the UN, aimed at reaching a long-term truce with Hamas to end months of border violence with the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem has officially been mum on the talks with Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group which seized control of the Strip in 2007 from the Palestinian Authority and seeks to destroy Israel.
“To our regret, other than general statements and empty remarks, which are intended for public relations, Netanyahu still has not done anything significant to return the boys,” the Goldin statement continued.
“We came out of the meeting with the hard feeling that behind the statements by the prime minister that he and his government are doing everything to return Hadar, there is a sad reality, and in practice nothing is being done.”
Also at the meeting was the military secretary to the prime minister Avi Blot, Director-General of the Foreign Ministry Yuval Rotem, and Yaron Blum who coordinates efforts to return Israelis held by Hamas. The last time the Goldins met with Netanyahu was five months ago.
Government sources said Netanyahu told the Goldins that there will be no agreement with Gaza without the soldiers’ remains being returned to Israel for burial.
Netanyahu has had a stormy relationship with the missing Israelis’ families, who have long accused the government of failing to take action to retrieve their sons’ remains.
Gaza saw a surge of violence since the start of the “March of Return” protests along the border in March. The clashes, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers have orchestrated, have included rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.
There has been no formal announcement of an agreement to end the violence, which at times escalated in rocket fire at southern Israel and retaliatory airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza. However, the past two weeks have seen a relative calm, as reports mounted that the final details of an agreement were being hammered out.
Media reports have claimed that key elements of the agreement would grant Hamas’ demand for an easing of Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian enclave. Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas took control of the territory, which is home to some two million Palestinians. Israel says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.
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