Mengistu, Goldin and Shaul.
(photo credit: Courtesy,REUTERS)
The return of the bodies belonging to two IDF soldiers and an Israeli citizen from the Gaza Strip ensures humanitarian and economic aid for all residents of Gaza, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday.
“I want to convey a message to our neighbors in the Gaza Strip, to the residents of Gaza, you have become hostages of the Hamas government. You can build a much better future for your children, you can receive all the humanitarian, economic, civilian aid but first you must kick out Hamas,” Liberman said while on a visit to the IDF’s Gaza Division.
“We are once again asking and turning to you [Gaza residents].
Put pressure on Hamas leaders to return the hostages and missing soldiers, Liberman said. “The return of the captives and missing soldiers opens a huge window that promises humanitarian and economic assistance for all the residents of Gaza.”
He added that as long as Hamas governs the Gaza Strip “the chance for coexistence, cooperation and a better future for Gaza is simply nonexistent.”
Hamas is believed to be holding the bodies of missing IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, as well as two other Israeli citizens – Abera Mengistu, an Ethiopian-Israeli, and Hisham al-Sayed, a Beduin – both who suffer from psychiatric disorders and voluntarily crossed into the Strip.
The two have been missing for four years and their cases are viewed by Israel as a humanitarian issue unrelated to the cases of Goldin and Shaul, but the country has made it clear that they hold the group responsible for the safety of both.
The terrorist organization has attempted to use all four as bargaining chips in negotiations for prisoner releases.
“We are certainly not opposed to humanitarian aid, but we are also asking for the most humane human gesture, to at least allow the Red Cross to go to see our prisoners and missing persons, we are asking first for an arrangement for POWs [Prisoners of War] and MIAs [those Missing in Action], I think this is a humanitarian demand,” Liberman said.
Last week, IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said that “some four years after Protective Edge, the mission hasn’t been completed. It will only be completed after the return of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul for burial in Israel.”
Eisenkot was speaking at the ceremony marking the change of GOC Southern Command from Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir to Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, who previously served as the head of Military Intelligence and as the commander of the Galilee Division.
On Tuesday Liberman congratulated Halevi on his new role, which he assumes as the IDF deals with the daily protests on the Gaza border dubbed “The Great Return March.”
The protests have posed the greatest threat to Israeli security since operation Protective Edge due to the combination of rocket fire, terrorist tunnels, riots, attempted infiltrations and the use of incendiary items such as kites and balloons.
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