Norway is mediating between Israel and Hamas to negotiate the return of the bodies of captured IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported Monday.
The Hezbollah-affiliated outlet also reported that a Norwegian envoy visited Gaza last month and received permission from Hamas to begin mediation.
“The price for the soldiers is a respectable exchange deal, like the Shalit deal in 2011,” a source told the newspaper. “There is flexibility regarding the preconditions set by Hamas to open negotiations, including on the release of all prisoners released in the Shalit deal [who have since been re-detained].”
The ruling terror group has in the past mooted the possibility of an exchange, but the price would likely be high.
In 2011, Israel traded over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the release of Gilad Shalit, a soldier held captive in Gaza for more than five years. Many were rearrested over the following years.
Four Israeli civilians — Avera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima and an unnamed individual — are also believed to have crossed into the Gaza Strip. Not all of them are necessarily being held captive by Hamas.
Last year, partly in response to the Goldin family’s campaign, Israel imposed new restrictions on the Islamist group, including refusing to return the bodies of its fighters.
A September poll found the majority of Israelis support ceasefire talks with Hamas, but oppose any deal with the Gaza-based terror group that does not include the release of the two soldiers’ bodies.
Shaul was killed in July 2014 when Hamas operatives fired an anti-tank missile as a 1970s-model armored personnel carrier stalled in a narrow street in Gaza. Six troops were killed and Hamas claimed to have kidnapped Shaul.
Hadar Goldin was part of a team of Israeli soldiers in the southern Gaza Strip on August 1, 2014, trying to find and destroy attack tunnels.
A 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire had been declared that morning, and as a result Israel says Goldin’s team was prohibited from using weapons during their search except in the case of immediate danger to their lives.
According to Israel’s military, the soldiers came under fire from Gaza fighters who killed Goldin and took his body into a tunnel. Two other soldiers were also killed.
Israel’s military did not know at the time if Goldin was dead or alive, and it launched a massive operation to find him and attack Hamas posts.
The assault came to be known as “Black Friday.”
Rights groups say more than 130 Palestinians civilians died, while Israel’s army acknowledges that up to 70 civilians were killed unintentionally.