In an apparent effort to leverage Israel into negotiating a prisoner exchange, Hamas recently delivered an emotional written appeal purporting to be from slain IDF soldier Oron Shaul to his bereaved parents begging for his release.
Shaul was killed in the Gaza Strip during last summer’s 50-day military campaign, Operation Protective Edge. His remains, along with those of a second soldier, Hadar Goldin, are believed to be held by the terror group, which seeks to use them as a bargaining chip.
But although both Shaul and Goldin were pronounced dead by the IDF based on forensic evidence, Hamas penned the letter to Shaul’s parents as if he were still alive, begging them to work for his release, the Maariv news site reported Sunday.
“My dearest mother, I hear it raining all around me but I cannot see or hear it. I keep waiting for happy news that will bring me back to you,” the letter to Zehava and Simha Shaul began.
“I want to be freed from captivity, and though I don’t deny I have been treated gently, I fear you have forgotten me, which fills my heart with much sadness and despair.”
It is not clear if Hamas was genuinely trying to have Shaul’s family believe he was still alive or if it were simply a sadistic ploy; in either case it is likely that it was meant to spur greater willingness on Israel’s part to negotiate.
Calling the Shaul family pawns in a “political gambit” by the Israeli government, the letter emphasized the slow progress of efforts to return him.
“The army promised us that we would return to our homes and families safely, but they left me here and have not done anything to bring me home,” it said.
“Mom, Dad, I beg you to please take action on my behalf,” the letter concluded.
Shaul’s parents, who have previously accused the government of “forgetting” about their son, were set to address the Hamas letter and the ongoing efforts to retrieve Oron’s remains in a press conference Sunday evening.
Last month, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal reportedly demanded the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners — including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat — in exchange for the bodies of Goldin and Shaul.
Barghouti, accused of being a major mastermind of the Second Intifada, is serving five life sentences after an Israeli court found him guilty in 2004 on multiple murder counts for his involvement in multiple lethal terror attacks. Saadat was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement in the 2001 assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi.
In addition, the Gaza-based terror group demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and subsequently re-arrested by Israel.
Israel has on several occasions freed live prisoners in exchange for the remains of its servicemen. However, Jerusalem has never negotiated directly with Hamas.
On July 20, 2014, Shaul was one of seven Israeli soldiers killed when, amid fierce battles in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, his armored personnel carrier, stuck in the middle of a city street, was hit by a Hamas anti-tank rocket.
The army was able to recover the remains of only six soldiers, although, based on forensic evidence, the army concluded that Shaul had also been killed.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.