Photo Credit: Facebook
Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, HY"D, killed in Operation Protective Edge.

Who abruptly shut down in-process U.S. assistance to the Israeli government in its effort to locate a missing IDF soldier trapped in Gaza and in the clutches of Hamas? This is a mystery that demands to be answered.

The story first broke on Friday, Oct. 16, when top U.S. terrorism expert Steve Emerson penned a blockbuster report which appeared in his Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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Emerson revealed there was an urgent, life-and-death request from the Israeli to the U.S. government for help in tracing the whereabouts of an Israeli soldier who was believed dragged – dead or alive, no one was sure – from a burning personnel carrier in the bowels of Gaza during this summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

The request was coursing through channels when all of a sudden the doors slam shut. An ordinary request that by all rights and beliefs should have been processed swiftly by one ally for another was peremptorily quashed. The request was denied and instead the U.S. prosecutors who had already geared up to assist our ally were told to stand down. Someone, somewhere in the U.S. government had decided instead that a formal, lengthy process was required, one that completely ignored the immediacy of the situation. That message was sent in an email from the FBI.

But the FBI does not make foreign policy decisions. It was not the FBI who yanked the lifeline from the Israeli captured behind enemy lines. So who did?

THE BACKGROUND

On July 20, the second day of the ground offensive during Operation Protective Edge, several members of the famed Golani brigade of the Israel Defense Force traveled into Gaza in an ancient armored personnel carrier.

The APC stalled in a crowded neighborhood and Hamas struck it with an anti-tank missile, causing it to explode. The blast was horrific – a munitions stockpile within the APC must have been hit – and Hamas terrorists fell upon the burning hulk, preventing IDF soldiers from immediately retrieving any IDF wounded or dead within the vehicle.

By the time IDF combat engineers were able to erect a barrier and seclude the APC from the marauding terrorists, one soldier remained unaccounted for. The body of First Sgt. Oron Shaul, 21, was missing. The bodies of six of his comrades were retrieved.

The next day, Hamas announced that it had captured Shaul. The announcement was met by singing and dancing and the distribution of candy in the streets of Gaza.

Hamas suggested that it had captured Shaul alive. It released Shaul’s picture, his army ID number and other of his belongings.

HAMAS POSTED ON SHAUL’S FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

To prove its boast, Hamas hacked into Shaul’s Facebook page and posted claims in Arabic, Hebrew and English that he was being held by Hamas. The posts taunted Shaul’s family and his comrades.

Despite intense efforts to recover Shaul, the IDF was unable to do so and was not even sure if the soldier was living or dead.

But Hamas made a mistake in an effort to broadcast its treachery. By hacking into Shaul’s Facebook account, they left footprints which could be followed to determine their location. Those footprints are known as the Internet Protocol address. Facebook’s servers automatically keep a record of the IP address whenever an account is accessed, and that IP address is accompanied by the physical location, which would show where the Hamas hackers were when they hacked Shaul’s account.

As Emerson explained, “if the Israelis could obtain the Facebook server data as soon as possible, they might have had a chance to find the whereabouts of the terrorists who took Oron.”

US COULD HELP LOCATE SHAUL WITH WARRANT FOR FACEBOOK

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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