TEL AVIV – Israel will not agree to a ceasefire deal with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group if the bodies of the two missing soldiers are not returned, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu on Sunday met with the families of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two soldiers who are believed to have been killed during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, and told them, “there would be no arrangement in the Gaza Strip without the return of the boys.”
It is unclear whether his remarks included two other Israeli civilians, Avraham Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima, who are also being held by Hamas in the Strip.
Despite the prime minister’s assurances, the bereaved parents expressed their dissatisfaction with the meeting.
The Goldin family has claimed that the terms of the ceasefire have already been set and do not include the return of their sons.
“We were disappointed with the meeting with the prime minister,” Simcha and Leah Goldin said in a statement following the meeting. “Netanyahu continues to surrender to Hamas.”
They added that according to the prime minister, the promised rehabilitation of Gaza would not be contingent on the return of the two soldiers.
“Our son Hadar was kidnapped into a tunnel in Rafah during a cease-fire,” the Goldin family said.
“Now, four years after the abduction, Netanyahu has not demanded the return of our son and again agrees to a cease-fire, which Hamas can break at its choosing by abducting additional soldiers,” the statement continued.
“We left the meeting today with a feeling that behind the prime minister’s statements that he and his government are doing everything possible to return Hadar, there is a sad reality that nothing has happened,” Hadar’s parents concluded.
Separately, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman has held a number of meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calling on him to throw his full support into a reconciliation with Hamas, Kan News reported.
“Don’t waste this historic opportunity,” Argaman reportedly told the 82-year-old president.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman last week criticized the prospective ceasefire deal, saying that rehabilitating Gaza without the Palestinian Authority on board would be a “tremendous prize” for the terror group.
“There is no capacity to have peace with the Palestinians unless there’s peace with all the Palestinians, including the million and a half in Gaza,” Friedman said in a telephone briefing Tuesday with members of the American Jewish Congress, Haaretz reported Thursday.
Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, warned that if the ceasefire negotiations failed again Hamas would fire hundreds of rockets towards Israel’s heartland.
“Until now, there is no final text for a ceasefire. What is being circulated is proposals and ideas,” Sinwar told Palestinian journalists on Wednesday. “We decided to end the siege on our people, who have the right to live a dignified life.”