Hamas: 'We won't return soldiers' bodies until prisoners from Schalit deal released'

Hamas claims that Israel approached them through a foreign intermediary to negotiate the return of the bodies of two soldiers killed in Operation Protective Edge.

Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin (photo credit: REUTERS,Courtesy)
Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin
(photo credit: REUTERS,Courtesy)
Israel had begun back channel negotiations to return the bodies of two soldiers who were killed in last summer’s Gaza war, a senior Hamas official said on Wednesday.
The Hamas source claimed that a European mediator contacted Hamas and inquired about the status of the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin (from the Givati Brigade) and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul (from the Golani Brigade), the Turkey’s Anatolia News Agency reported.
“The European mediator sent a message from the government of Israel, who wants to open a channel of communication to bring back the bodies of its soldiers being held by Hamas since the last war in Gaza,” the official said.
The source added that Hamas refuses to discuss this issue until Israel releases all the detainees who were traded for tank gunner Gilad Schalit and were rearrested last summer after Hamas terrorists abducted and murdered three Israeli teenagers near Hebron.
Shaul, 20, was unaccounted for after an attack on his armored personnel carrier in Shejaia, Gaza City, which killed six other soldiers, and was declared dead by the IDF’s chief rabbi last summer.
Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from the Givati Brigade’s Reconnaissance Company, was killed in the Battle of Rafah on August 1, 2014.
“It is obvious to us that Oron’s body is being held by Hamas, and we are doing everything we can to return it,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said last year.
Senior Hamas official Halil al-Hayeh previously said regarding reports the Islamist movement held soldiers captive, “We will not give any information on the matter.”
During the war last summer, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades announced that it had captured Shaul.
Hamas officials have neither confirmed nor denied publicly that they are holding the two men’s bodies.