Hamas claims Israel bombed facility holding captive remains of IDF soldier last year

Gaza terror group says strike occurred during May 2021 war, killing one of its guards; Israeli official calls it a lie meant to drum up interest

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

A Palestinian woman walks past a destroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
A Palestinian woman walks past a destroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

The Hamas terror group on Sunday claimed that a facility where the body of an Israeli soldier was being held captive was bombed in an IDF airstrike during last May’s fighting.

The alleged revelation, which could not be immediately verified, was almost immediately denied by an anonymous Israeli official, who told reporters that it was a lie meant to drum up interest, amid a renewed push by Hamas to negotiate the release of the remains of two fallen Israeli soldiers — both killed roughly eight years ago in the 2014 Gaza war — and two living Israeli citizens.

In a statement, Abu Obeida, spokesperson for Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said the strike last May hit the facility where one of the two soldiers’ bodies was being held, killing one of the officers tasked with guarding the remains and wounding three others.

The dead Hamas officer was not named. The terror group said it would release his identity at a later date.

The terror group did not identify which of the two soldiers’ remains was being held at the facility.

August 1 marks eight years since Hadar Goldin, was killed and his body was captured by Hamas. The other soldier, Oron Shaul, was killed and captured earlier in the 2014 war. Both were operating inside Gaza at the time.

A composite photo of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul, left, and Hadar Goldin, right.

The claim, if true, would likely raise questions about Israeli intelligence and targeting during the war, with the military either not knowing that the remains were being held at the location, or knowing and targeting the site anyway.

The statement came days after Israeli military officials briefed reporters on what it said was intelligence showing Hamas rebuilding military infrastructure in crowded urban areas, near schools, a mosque, and a factory.

The briefing was apparently intended to defuse criticism over possible future strikes, after coming under harsh criticism during the war for hitting buildings where no military activity was obvious.

This illustration published by the military on July 27, 2022, shows a red line where a Hamas tunnel allegedly is, next to a school and mosque in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)

An anonymous senior Israeli official roundly denied the claim by Hamas, saying it was an effort by the terror group to renew talks with Israel.

“This is one big lie. Hamas is under great pressure so it’s looking to raise the issue. Israel will continue with its many and myriad efforts to release the captives and the missing, and it will not stop,” the unnamed official said in a statement.

Israel has worked to secure the return of the soldiers’ remains and two living men also being held captive — Avera Mangistu and Hisham al-Sayed — via a prisoner exchange deal with the terror group. Egyptian intelligence, which maintains close ties to both Israel and Hamas, often serves as the key intermediary, but talks have seemingly hit a dead-end.

Hamas maintains that Goldin and Shaul are alive. Israel denies this — indeed funerals were held for both after medical professionals and rabbis reviewed sufficient evidence to determine they had been killed — and calls these claims “lame spin.”

Footage of a man who Hamas claims is Israeli captive Hisham al-Sayed published on June 28, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Last month, in another apparent bid to jumpstart negotiations, Hamas released a video of al-Sayed connected to oxygen, claiming he was ill.

Al-Sayed, a Bedouin Israeli, crossed into the Gaza Strip voluntarily in 2015. His family says he suffers from mental illness.

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