The parents of a fallen IDF soldier whose body has been held by Hamas in Gaza since 2014 slammed Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a meeting on Sunday with the prime minister, saying that a ceasefire amounts to the abandonment of their son and others believed held captive.
Simcha and Leah Goldin, whose son Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was killed during Operation Protective Edge, were apparently referring to the end of last week’s flareup of violence between Israel and the Strip’s second-largest terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in which Hamas is thought to have largely remained on the sidelines.
“After five years and four months in which nothing has really been done, we expect to hear from Netanyahu when he will return the soldiers and civilians who are in the hands of Hamas,” they said.
“Hadar was abducted during a ceasefire that was violated by Hamas. Any other ceasefire that the Israeli government reaches without returning the soldiers is the continued abandonment of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin and Sergeant Oron Saul in the hands of the enemy,” the Goldins said.
Hamas did not take an active part in last week’s two-day flareup between Israel and Islamic Jihad-led fighters in the Strip, which some have seen as creating a new opening for a long-term truce with the Strip.
While two Hamas rockets were fired toward Beersheba on Saturday, Israeli officials reportedly believe the launch was a rogue act by operatives who were acting without the authorization of the terror organization’s leaders.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has vowed Israel’s destruction, is believed to be holding the remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies were captured by the terror group when they were killed in the Strip during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.
The terror group also holds captive two Israeli citizens — Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who are said to have entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord in 2014-2015.
The bereaved parents of the soldiers and the Mengistu family have expressed repeated frustration with Netanyahu and his government’s efforts to negotiate the return of their sons.
Earlier this month, Israel’s chief negotiator for the release of Israelis held by Hamas said that the Palestinian terror group refuses to adopt a stance that would allow for real progress in talks for a possible prisoner swap.
“Unfortunately, and despite real efforts on our part, Hamas is refusing to take a realistic position that would be conducive to real progress on the matter,” said Yaron Blum, a Shin Bet veteran, who was appointed in 2017 as Israel’s chief negotiator for prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, in a comment to the Kan public broadcast radio.
Blum’s comment came in response to a report that an Israeli delegation, including senior officials, was in Cairo for talks with Hamas mediated by Egyptian officials and that progress has been made.
According to a report last week in the Arabic version of the UK publication the Independent Arabia citing an unnamed source, “there has been progress in recent days between the two sides.”
According to the report, which was published before the flareup in violence between Israel and Gaza, the deal centers around the return of the remains of the Israeli soldiers in exchange “for an undetermined number of bodies of Palestinians held by Israel” and an aid package for the enclave. Hamas was said to have requested the release of 50 prisoners in return for the two Israeli civilians, with Israel suggesting the release of half that number, according to the Independent Arabia.
The alleged progress in negotiations may be due to “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s desire to close this file,” according to the unnamed source, ahead of the potential formation of a coalition by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, or another round of elections.
The source also said that “the Israeli and Hamas delegations are in the same hotel, but the Egyptian side is mediating.”
Earlier this month, Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar denied that negotiations on a potential deal were taking place, citing the Jewish state’s lack of a government after elections.
Israel has had a caretaker government since December, when the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and call early elections for April. Two rounds of elections within months have failed to produce a sworn-in government in Israel. Netanyahu continues to lead a caretaker government while his chief rival, Gantz, has been charged with trying to form a coalition after Netanyahu, who was given first try, failed in the task.
Blum’s comments were a reiteration of remarks he made earlier this month that Hamas was being unrealistic in its demands.
Blum said at the time that Israel was working through a number of mediator channels and that there was progress toward a deal to release the prisoners, but that Hamas “is not yet ripe for a deal — its demands are crazy. It doesn’t understand that the Israeli public has changed and there will not be a second Shalit deal.”
IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was captured in 2006 and ultimately freed by Hamas in 2011 in exchange for Israel releasing more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
A deal over the Israeli captives and remains is believed to be one of several issues holding up a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas following long months of tensions and flareups.