The family of a slain Israeli soldier whose remains are held by Hamas in Gaza called Friday to reject any ceasefire agreement with the terror group that does not include the return of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, killed during the 2014 Gaza war.
“The prime minister must set the boys’ return as a precondition before anything else — any other deal would be a capitulation deal to Hamas,” Hadar’s father Simcha said.
The family was holding a protest rally outside IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.
An apparent truce with Hamas went into effect Thursday night after two days of spiraling violence that saw the heaviest exchanges of fire between Israel and the Gaza terrorist organization since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.
The Hamas terror group said a ceasefire had been reached “on the basis of mutual calm” and went into effect at midnight. It said the deal was mediated by Egypt and other regional players.
Israel denied there was a truce, but a senior Israeli official told Israel Radio that “quiet would be met with quiet.” There were no instances of violence reported along the border overnight.
“The principle of returning [captured] soldiers, alive, wounded or dead — is a principle we all grew up on, and must not allow to be lost,” he said. Goldin lamented that in the case of Hadar and Oron Shaul, that principle “was lost” in the 2014 war in which they were killed “and it seems as though now as well.”
Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel, also at the rally, said his daughter’s recent enlistment to the army had brought him to realize the importance of the family’s position.
“I’ve decided to take part in this fight, because there is none more justified. We must not reach any agreement with Hamas without the return of the boys.”
Two living civilians, Abera Mangistu and Hisham al-Sayed, are also believed to be held in the Strip.
Earlier Friday leaders of Israeli communities in the Gaza periphery expressed similar sentiments, with heads of cities and local municipalities criticizing the government’s apparent agreement to a truce.
Hours after fighting grounded to a halt, local officials called on the government to secure a permanent end to rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal enclave, whether by military or diplomatic means.
Residents of southern Israel for several months have been rattled by a series of one or two-day rounds of fighting between Hamas and Israel, sending them scrambling to their bomb shelters and raising fears of war. In all cases, violence later subsided under ceasefires negotiated by Egypt and the UN, before resuming weeks later.
Alon Davidi, the mayor of Sderot, which suffered the brunt of the rocket fire from Gaza, said the effective truce was a “mistake” and that the IDF must decisively curb attacks on Israel through military action.
Other local leaders agreed, saying Israel risked creating a new normality with Hamas by accepting intermittent bouts of violence.
On Friday morning, the IDF Home Front Command announced that all security restrictions in southern Israel had been lifted.
The reported ceasefire on Thursday came just an hour after the security cabinet completed a four-hour meeting on Gaza, instructing the military to “continue acting forcefully” against terror groups in the Strip,
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Thursday that Gaza terror groups had fired about 150 rockets at Israel in 24 hours, while Israel had struck some 140 Hamas targets in Gaza.
He said a rocket that landed in Beersheba — some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Gaza border — required a more powerful, longer-range rocket, marking a significant escalation.
The Goldin and Shaul families have long been critical of the government’s handling of their sons’ return, believing it has not done enough. They have staged public rallies and protests.
Hamas is rumored to be demanding the release of a large number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the dead soldiers’ return, a demand Jerusalem is said to reject.
Agencies contributed to this report.