Israeli soldiers deploy on the Israeli side of the border with the northern Gaza Strip, April 1, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Israel appeared to call for a hostage swap with Hamas, when it declared Sunday that it held the bodies of two armed Palestinian militants from Gaza who were killed by the IDF as they attempted to infiltrate into Israel two days earlier.
The two Palestinians were “armed with rifles and an explosive device. They intended to carry out a terrorist operation in Israel,” said the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai in an Arabic message he posted on his Facebook page. Mordechai named the two dead as Mosa’ab Salol, 23, a known member of Hamas’ military wing, and Mohammed Rabaya.
In addition, he said, Israel is holding the bodies of 24 other Palestinians who were killed in Operation Protective Edge (the 2014 Gaza War) and in the demolition of a Hamas attack tunnel into Israel last October.
The quick burial of bodies is important to both Judaism and Islam, Mordechai said, but Hamas has prevented that from happening by holding Israelis hostage and thereby preventing Palestinian families in Gaza from praying over the grave of their loved ones.
“Israel will not be quiet and the people of Gaza will not be tranquil until the Israelis have been returned from the Strip and our soldiers have been transferred for burial in Israel,” Mordechai said.
Palestinian experts warn further worsening situation in Gaza Strip, April 1, 2018 (Reuters)
“The terrorist organization that rules Gaza doesn’t care about the living or the dead,” he said.
Israel has in the past exchanged both Palestinian prisoners and the remains of terrorists for Israeli hostages and the remains of IDF soldiers. But it has done so reluctantly and only after prolonged public relations campaigns, led by the captive’s or bereaved families.
Mordechai appeared to indicate that Israel would be prepared to push forward with such a swap for Israelis in Gaza. This includes the remains of two IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul, presumed to have been killed in Gaza in 2014.
It also includes three Israelis who are believed to be suffering from mental illness and who as a result wandered into Gaza by accident: Avera Mengistu, 31; Hisham al-Sayed, 30; and Jumaa Abu Ghanima, 20.
The Mengistu family has appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations and the United States to secure Avera’s release. On Sunday they held a small protest on the sidewalk in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem home and called on him to take action.
They hung a handmade sign by the stone wall to remind Netanyahu that Avera had been held for 1,302 days.
His brother Ilan said Avera “has been there for over three and a half years and this is one more Passover we are celebrating without him. We want to remind the prime minister and the government that they must do everything to return him home.”
On Sunday, Goldin’s father Simha called on the government and the IDF not return the Palestinian bodies unless Hamas released the remains of his son and those of Shaul.
“Israel must use the bodies as a bargaining chip against Hamas and hold them until a solution is found and the soldiers are returned,” Simha said.
Salol and Rabaya were among 16 Palestinians the IDF killed on Friday as it responded to a demonstration of over 30,000 protesters who wanted to push their way across the security fence that separates the Gaza Strip from southern Israel.
The IDF has determined that at least 11 of those who were killed were active members of Hamas who were involved in terrorist activity against Israel. Over the weekend it released footage that showed rioters throwing stones and burning tires in the area of the security fence.
Palestinians in turn have charged that those killed were innocent protesters who were demonstrating against the “occupation” and for the “right of return” to Israel.
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