Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with the families of two fallen Israeli soldiers whose remains are being held by Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that controls the Gaza Strip. He promised them that Israel was working to return their sons.
The families have been very critical, charging Israel was not doing enough to bring them home.
Netanyahu spoke with the families of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul in a meeting also attended by Yaron Blum, who coordinates efforts to return Israelis held by Hamas, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
“The prime minister updated the families on the unrelenting efforts by the government to return the boys, and the efforts by the coordinator for captured and missing Israelis and his team,” the PMO said.
Netanyau told the families that Israel is working in “revealed and covert ways” to return the IDF soldiers and civilians from Hamas captivity, the statement continued.
Two Israeli civilians and two killed soldiers are held by Hamas. During the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas terrorists captured the remains of two Goldin and Shaul. In the following year, two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians, Avraham Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, on separate occasions entered the Gaza Strip of their own volition and were taken captive by Hamas.
The PMO noted that Netanyahu met with the families of Mengistu and al-Sayed in December last year and stays in contact with them.
Netanyahu has had a stormy relationship with the missing Israelis’ families who have accused the government of not doing enough to bring their loved ones home.
Last week Mengistu’s family launched a tent protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, calling on the government to bring back Avera from Hamas captivity. In March, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira asked Netanyahu to respond to claims by the Goldins about efforts to return Hadar.
Israel has called for the civilians and slain soldiers to be returned, but Hamas insisted that Israel release many convicted terrorists from prison before negotiations can even begin, something that Israel refused to do.
Last month, the head of the army’s Southern Command said improving the bleak living conditions in the Gaza Strip is contingent upon the return of the soldiers’ remains, as well as the two Israeli civilians.
In October 2017, Netanyahu personally selected Blum to lead repatriation efforts for the missing Israelis saying at the time he chose Blum for the position due to his role in negotiating the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held in Gaza for five years, until his release in 2011 as part of a controversial deal with the Hamas terror group, in which Israel freed over 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.