Knesset holds discussion on return of bodies of Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin

Aviram Shaul criticized the government for allowing his brother's body to be held captive for this long. "Those who leave for battle need to know that they will be returned," he said.

Israelis Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed being held by Hamas in Gaza (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY/FACEBOOK)
Israelis Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed being held by Hamas in Gaza
(photo credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY/FACEBOOK)
The Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee headed by MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz) held on Wednesday a difficult discussion regarding Operation Protective Edge, Israeli captives still held by Hamas to this day, and the consequences for the families of those who never returned from Gaza. 
The discussion was attended by the family members of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who went missing during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and were later confirmed to be dead.  
Oron Shaul's brother, Aviram, criticized the government for allowing his brother's body to be held captive for so long. "Those who leave for battle need to know that they will be returned. Period.
"Without noticing, we're slowly reaching a slippery slope that may lead to another Ron Arad case," he said, adding: "Open your eyes. Why do the families need to fight for their sons to be brought back home? You sent them there: You bring them back." 
Hadar Goldin's father, Prof. Simcha Goldin, known for his unwavering struggle for returning his son's body over the years, noted a number of security prisoners who were released since Operation Protective Edge while questioning the reason behind their release, saying that the state has so far refused to hand over any information.
Hauser addressed the sensitive and painful nature of the discussion, saying that "our fallen soldiers must be returned home, and no option can be taken off the table."
However, he added, "the most useful way of receiving reliable information is through a vail of classification and confidentiality," suggesting that while it may take some take, he has every intention of making sure that the government "invests all its efforts together with the relevant operational entities responsible for this issue.
"The government must not close its eyes in face of this difficult issue and must not cave in to terrorism," Hauser said in concluding the discussion. 
Besides the bodies of Shaul and Goldin, Hamas is believed to be holding captive two Israeli citizens in Gaza: Avera Mengistu, a  disabled resident of Ashkelon – 28-year-old at the time, he crossed the border into the Gaza Strip on September 7, 2014, and has not been seen since – and Hisham al-Sayed, a young Bedouin suffering from schizophrenia who served in the IDF for several months before being discharged, who crossed the border into Gaza in April 2015.
In July 2020, six years after Shaul was killed during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip and his body was taken by Hamas, MK Michal Cotler Wunsh (Blue and White) called for the terror group to be held accountable.
“For six years, discussions of prisoner swaps as the means of retrieving Oron Shaul along with his comrade Hadar Goldin and Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed have been the norm, as if Israel and the international community should accept paradigms dictated by terrorist groups, and release those that have murdered its citizens in order to retrieve what is rightfully theirs,” she told the Knesset plenary at the time. 
However, while discussions on the matter have since continued, no action has so far been taken to advance the issue.  
Then, in December, Israeli officials estimated that in light of the coronavirus outbreak in the Gaza Strip, an opportunity was created for Israel to reach ground-breaking achievements in negotiating with Hamas over the exchange of prisoners, raising hopes for something to move in the right direction. 

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.