Bodies of nine IDF soldiers held in Gaza, army researcher says

Arieli said that during IDF operations in Gaza, recovering the bodies "was not a top priority, and it was difficult for us to investigate."

An Israeli soldier sits by a grave on Mount Herzl during Remembrance Day on April 18th, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An Israeli soldier sits by a grave on Mount Herzl during Remembrance Day on April 18th, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The bodies of nine IDF soldiers have been held in the Gaza Strip since the War of Independence, a senior IDF official told Radio 101.5 on Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Neri Arieli, a researcher in the Missing Persons Division of the IDF, said Hamas is aware of the locations of some of the bodies, but refrained from suggesting they were being held as bargaining chips in potential negotiations with Israel.
On Sunday, the division announced it had located the remains of Pvt. Liebke Schaeffer after an intensive search.
"Let's divide it into two," Arieli said. "One - there are bodies where the authorities in Gaza know where they are buried, and there are bodies that [laypeople] in Gaza know where they are."
Arieli refused to answer whether the army has made an appeal to Hamas to return the bodies, saying only, "We currently have nine soldiers in Gaza."
He said that during IDF operations in Gaza, recovering the bodies "was not a top priority, and it was difficult for us to investigate."
"There is a group of our soldiers that Hamas has information about and there is a group that we think we can find evidence about in Gaza," he concluded.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.