The family of an IDF soldier whose remains are being held by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip impeded workers from the Palestinian enclave from entering Israel on Sunday by blocking an access road.
Members of missing soldier Hadar Goldin’s family were joined by activists campaigning for his return, as well as the return of the remains of soldier Oron Shaul and two living Israeli civilians believed held in Gaza.
The early morning protesters held up a large banner across a road leading from a border crossing out of Gaza and into Israel. In a video shared on social media, dozens of cars and vans could be seen delayed by the roadblock.
The banner declared “Stop giving gifts and bringing in workers until the soldiers are returned.”
Goldin and Shaul were killed during the 2014 Gaza War and their bodies were taken by Hamas fighters. The demonstrators also called for the release of Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two civilians with special needs who crossed into Gaza of their own volition later in 2014 and in 2015, respectively, and have been held by Hamas ever since.
Goldin’s father Simcha said the action was directed at Defense Minister Benny Gantz “who left two soldiers on the battlefield, Hadar and Oron, eight years ago.”
Gantz was IDF chief of staff during the 2014 conflict dubbed Operation Protective Edge.
“We came to explain to him that it’s inconceivable for Arab workers to enter Israel from Gaza before the soldiers and citizens are brought back,” he said in a video statement from the border.
פעילי "הדר ומשפחת גולדין" חסמו הבוקר את שיירות הפועלים העזתים שיוצאים מעזה לישראל בדרישה להשבת הבנים.
פרופ' שמחה גולדין, אביו של הדר גולדין: "אנחנו דורשים משר הביטחון וגם מראש הממשלה שיפעילו לחץ על חמאס ועל תושבי עזה כדי להביא את החיילים לפני כל הסכם וכל הנחה כלכלית כזו או אחרת. pic.twitter.com/kyGDkxsveD
— Asslan Khalil ???? (@KhalilAsslan) September 18, 2022
Goldin demanded that Gantz and Prime Minister Yair Lapid “apply pressure on Hamas and the residents of Gaza in order to bring back the soldiers before making any agreement or [giving] any economic benefit of one sort or another.”
Following a recent round of fighting with Gaza in August, Gantz approved adding another 1,500 daily work permits for Gazans, bringing the total to 15,000.
The Defense Ministry has signed off on a tentative plan to raise the number of Gaza permits to 20,000, an unprecedented increase. In mid-2021, just 7,000 Gaza Palestinians had permits to work or do business in Israel.
The Goldin family argues that humanitarian measures for the Gaza Strip should be contingent on the return of their son and the other three Israelis held in the Strip.
The government has long held back from advancing major humanitarian projects to rebuild the enclave, which suffers from massive economic hardship due to repeated rounds of violence with Israel and a blockade maintained by the IDF — and to a lesser degree Egypt — to prevent the smuggling of weapons for future wars.
However, Israel has advanced more measured steps aimed at preventing the total collapse of the Gazan economy, such as allowing in COVID-19 vaccines and ventilators and granting entry permits to thousands of Palestinians to work in Israel each day, performing blue-collar jobs essential for Israel’s economy.
Those initiatives have been widely backed by the security establishment, which views maintaining stability in the enclave as a national security interest.
But these steps have infuriated the Goldin family, which claims successive governments have paid lip service to their cause while not taking any action when given the opportunity.