'There was hope until the end'

IDF chief medical officer: Goldwasser, Regev appear to have been buried only part of the time.

regev goldwasser coffins (photo credit: AP)
regev goldwasser coffins
(photo credit: AP)
Until the very last minute before Hizbullah unloaded two black coffins at the Lebanese side of the Rosh Hanikra border crossing on Wednesday, IDF Chief Medical Officer Brig.-Gen. Dr. Nachman Ash was still hopeful that abducted reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser would return home alive. "Until the last moment there was hope," Ash told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Friday. "There were preparations for the possibility that they would be alive and there were medical teams on standby at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The moment, however, when we saw the coffins we knew there was a different ending." Together with IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky, Ash was the officer responsible for identifying the bodies of Goldwasser and Regev after they were transferred to Israel on Wednesday by the Red Cross. The medical and forensic steams stationed at Rosh Hanikra received the bodies and immediately began the identification process. While refusing to go into details out of respect for the families, Ash said that the bodies were in "poor condition" due to the way they were preserved by Hizbullah since the kidnapping two years ago. "The bodies were not kept in refrigeration and appeared to have been buried only part of the time," Ash said. Due to the state of the bodies, the identification process took several hours. "It was clear that the identification process would be difficult and it was uncertain if we would succeed in identifying the soldiers based on what we had at Rosh Hanikra," he said. In the end, the bodies were positively identified by using an advanced image radar machine that matched the soldiers' teeth. On Sunday, Ash will receive the chief pathologist's final report on the cause of death, although from the initial examination, which he participated in, both appeared to have been killed in the attack against their convoy, during which their bodies were taken by Hizbullah on July 12, 2006. Goldwasser suffered a fatal wound to the chest by an RPG and Regev was shot in the head, likely while trying to escape the burning Hummer jeep. While he has seen many complicated cases throughout his military career, Ash said that the identification of Goldwasser and Regev was uniquely difficult. "I have seen many hard cases over the years but here, it wasn't easy emotionally, particularly due to the lost hope and the state of the bodies," he said. "There were many experienced people there and it was hard for everyone."