The families of the two fallen IDF soldiers and the two Israeli civilians held in the Gaza Strip on Sunday launched a campaign against the lull arrangement with Hamas. The families – Shaul, Goldin, Mengistu and Abu Ghanima – held a joint press conference in Jerusalem demanding that the first stage of any future agreement with Hamas be conditioned on the return of their loved ones.
Hamas is holding on to the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in the 2014 Gaza war. Two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, have since entered the Gaza Strip and were detained by Hamas.
The families are protesting the agreement initiated by Egypt in an attempt to gradually calm the region in four stages: in the first and immediate stage, the Rafah crossing to Sinai will be opened on a regular basis and concessions will be granted at the crossings to Israel; in the second stage, an agreement will be signed between Fatah and Hamas to renew the payment of government employees’ salaries, as well as the takeover of the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority under Egyptian auspices, and preparing for elections within six months; the third stage will include investment in infrastructure in Gaza and reducing unemployment and linking the Gaza port to Port Said for the transfer of goods; only in the fourth and final stage will Israel and Hamas agree to a 5- to 10-year truce and the exchange of prisoners and bodies.
Zehava Shaul, Oron’s mother, called on the government not to sign an agreement with Hamas without ensuring the return of the missing. “Netanyahu shouted at us and accused us,” Shaul attacked the prime minister. “He called us liars because we shouted in his face that he had promised us explicitly that no agreement would be signed with Turkey before the boys returned home – now we all know who lied.”
“Do not give them a gesture or a humanitarian service until they bring Oron and Hadar back and the other prisoners return home,” Shaul told the prime minister. “This is fundamental and elementary moral condition for everyone.”
The Prime Minister’s Office responded, stating: “Prime Minister Netanyahu never shouted at bereaved families and did not accuse them, including the Shaul family. The prime minister will continue to make every effort until the sons return home.”
Simcha Goldin, father of the late Hadar Goldin, attacked Netanyahu, saying, “The public needs to know that the cabinet meeting that will take place today is superfluous,” he declared, “a scheduled show to try to prove that the prime minister is committed to the boys’ return. It is a waste of time, discussing a train that has already left its station.”
“The surrender agreement with Gaza took effect three days ago and does not include soldiers and civilians,” Goldin insisted. “On Thursday morning, trucks carrying equipment for a water treatment facility went through the Kerem Shalom crossing. This is equipment that had been detained in Israel and now it has been transferred, meaning that the surrender has begun.”