Syrian prisoners’ release a ‘missed opportunity’ to return son’s body, say IDF soldier’s parents

The family of fallen soldier Hadar Goldin, whose body is being held by Hamas, says no prisoners should be released unless it is within the framework of a comprehensive exchange that includes their son.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Goldin family lashed out Saturday at the news that Israel would release two Syrian prisoners as a “goodwill gesture” to the Assad regime for its role in the Russian-facilitated return of the remains of IDF soldier Zachary Baumel, who was killed in the First Lebanon War.

Such a move, the family said, should only have been made in the context of a much broader exchange that would include the return of the bodies of their son Hadar and his fellow soldier Oron Shaul. The two IDF soldiers’ bodies have been held by Hamas since they were killed in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.

“The reports in international media [regarding the prisoners’ release] break our hearts, because we learn from them that Netanyahu once again missed an opportunity to return Oron and Hadar as part of a broad international exchange, precisely against the backdrop of the return of Sgt. Zachary Baumel,” Simcha and Leah Goldin said in a statement.

Baumel’s body was recovered in Syria with Russia’s active assistance and was buried in Israel earlier this month in the presence of thousands of mourners.

Israel officially insists that there was no predetermined deal to return Baumel’s body in exchange for freeing two prisoners who were released on Sunday, one of whom was convicted of a terror offense and the other for drug smuggling. The Russian ambassador to Syria, however, told a Russian broadcaster that Jerusalem had agreed to release “some Syrian citizens” in exchange for Baumel.

Whether the release is a formal quid pro quo or not did not matter to the Goldins, who blamed the government for not using this opportunity to bring their son home.

“Instead of Prime Minister Netanyahu advancing effective pressure on Hamas to bring about a prisoner exchange agreement with Hamas, too, as part of the broader international exchange, he decided to sentence us to uncertainty and emotional suffering,” their statement added.

“We expect Netanyahu to stand by his promises to IDF soldiers and their families and return Hadar and Oron as a precondition for any arrangement with Gaza and the Arab world,” the family added.