Negotiators speak with missing soldiers’ families about Hamas swap

The families of two slain IDF soldiers were briefed by an official overseeing negotiations with Hamas to return their bodies and bring home two additional living Israeli captives.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

The families of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, IDF soldiers who were killed in Gaza in 2014, were recently brought up to speed on Israel’s ongoing attempts to reach a deal with Hamas to return their bodies to Israel.

According to a statement released by the Goldin family, Yaron Blum, an Israeli official who oversees negotiations for the return of prisoners-of-war and fallen soldiers, spoke with the Shaul and Goldin families last week regarding the government’s ongoing negotiations with Hamas over the matter.

“There is [right now] an opportunity to return from Hamas’ hands our son Hadar and Sgt. Oron Saul, along with civilian [captives] [Avera] Mengistu and [Hisham] al-Sayed,” said the Goldin family in the statement.

The family urged the government not to act “irresponsibly” and forego this opportunity.

News of Blum’s discussion with the Goldin and Shaul families arrives after a report by Channel 13 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met last week with the Knesset committee responsible for securing the return of POWs and MIAs from enemy hands.

Netanyahu reportedly met with the committee to review progress in negotiations for a potential prisoner swap with Hamas, which seeks the release of scores of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel for terror and security-related offenses.

In addition to Goldin and Shaul, Hamas also currently holds two living Israelis, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, both of whom are believed to suffer from mental health conditions. Mengistu and al-Sayed are believed to have entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord, but their families have warned they are not of sound mind.

Earlier in April, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that “special negotiator for hostages and prisoners of war Yaron Blum and his team, along with the National Security Council and the defense establishment are ready to act on the matter and call for immediate dialogue [with Hamas] through mediators,” Israel Hayom reported.

“Hamas is weak and we have to exploit this opportunity,” said Leah Goldin, Hadar Goldin’s mother, in an Israel Army Radio interview at the beginning of April. “Sinwar is in a position where he needs us [due to the coronavirus crisis], so he should resolve the matter and return the soldiers and civilians to us.”

In light of the global health pandemic, Hamas has communicated greater willingness to make a deal with Israel for the return of the living captives and soldiers’ remains.