Five years on, mother of soldier slain in Gaza still fighting for son’s remains

Leah Goldin says 2014 Gaza war won’t end until bodies of her son Hadar and fellow soldier Oron Shaul are able to receive proper burials

Leah Goldin, right, and her husband Simcha Goldin and other family members and supporters gather outside the state memorial ceremony for Operation Protective Edge at Mount Herzl on July 23, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Leah Goldin, right, and her husband Simcha Goldin and other family members and supporters gather outside the state memorial ceremony for Operation Protective Edge at Mount Herzl on July 23, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

JTA — It has been five years since Lt. Hadar Goldin was killed by Hamas terrorists and his body was dragged through a terror tunnel back into Gaza.

His family hasn’t given up hope of giving him him a “decent burial.”

Goldin was killed on August 1, 2014, two hours into a cease-fire during Operation Protective Edge, when Gazan fighters who emerged from a tunnel carried out an attack on soldiers operating in Rafah in the southern Strip.

During almost two months of fighting, more than 2,000 Gazans were killed and some 10,000 were wounded, many of them fighters. On the Israeli side, 67 Israeli soldiers, five Israeli civilians and one Thai national were killed, while hundreds more were injured.

A photo of Rafah in southern Gaza on August 2, 2014, one day after the abduction and killing of Lt. Hadar Goldin (Hatem Ali/ AP Photo)

Leah Goldin said the killing and abduction of her 23-year-old son was a violation of international humanitarian law since it took place during a cease-fire brokered by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry and then-United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Because of this, she says, “the international community bears some responsibility” for the return of her son.

Goldin spoke on Wednesday to international journalists to mark the five years since her son’s death and abduction. She noted that Hadar’s twin brother Tzur also was serving in Gaza during the 2014 war, commanding the rescue force that evacuated soldiers who had been wounded or killed. He got the call to rescue Hadar, but was called back when officials realized it was his brother.

Givati Brigade officer Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba, who was killed in Gaza on August 1, 2014 (photo credit: AP Photo/ Ynet News)

Days after his body was abducted into Gaza, Hadar Goldin was declared dead by Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz, the Israel Defense Forces’s chief rabbi at the time and now the country’s education minister.

Peretz determined that the IDF had recovered enough of his remains to determine that he could not have survived.

Hamas also holds the body of soldier Shaul Oron, killed days before Hadar Goldin, as well as two living Israeli citizens, one Ethiopian and one Bedouin, who entered Gaza and were captured.

“Clearly, they [Hamas] intend to use them as bargaining chips,” Goldin says.

Relatives and friends of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin mourning over his grave during his funeral at the military cemetery in Kfar Saba on August 3, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Goldin said that Israel and the international community has to “change the equation” of exchanging dozens and sometimes hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for the bodies of Israeli soldiers and hostages.

She suggests withholding all but essential humanitarian aid, noting that “Gaza wouldn’t survive one day without international support.”

Goldin and her husband have visited the United Nations on many occasions in the last five years to ask for the international body’s help. She is pleased that the UN Security Council in June passed a resolution, 2474, which calls upon the sides in a conflict to return the remains of missing combatants, a move she calls significant.

Leah Goldin (R), the mother of Israeli soldier Lieutenant Hadar Goldin (L), holds up a picture of her son as she speaks during an interview at their family home in the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba on August 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

A vociferous critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Goldin called on him to do his part to return her son to her.

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)

“As the prime minister and defense minister, he’s the one that sent Hadar to fight in Gaza, and he’s the one who’s responsible for every soldier, no matter his condition: alive, wounded or dead. This is the contract, the unwritten contract between Israel authorities and the families,” she said.

The Gaza War has not ended, Goldin said. She pointed to rockets fired at intervals from the coastal strip and the incendiary balloons released in Gaza that have set Israeli fields and forests on fire. And, she said, Operation Protective Edge will not officially end until the remains of her son and Shaul Oron are returned to Israel.

Goldin says that her family wants to “give Hadar a decent burial and to end our suffering.”

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