Hamas on Friday branded Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a “liar”, and declared that the “occupation” would have to pay a price for the return of two soldiers and two civilians which Hamas is holding in Gaza.
The comments by Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida mark the first time that Hamas has acknowledged that the four Israelis – soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and civilians Avraham Mengistu and a Bedouin whose name has not been made public – are missing in Gaza.
Abu Obeida, who appeared in a video alongside the photos of the four Israelis, said, according to the Hebrew language Walla! News website, “There is no contact with the occupation about the soldiers who are imprisoned in Gaza, and we will not provide information unilaterally without the occupation paying the price.”
Abu Obeida added in that Netanyahu is “lying to his people and deceiving the families” with his statements about the prisoners. According to him, “Netanyahu is lying in his statements; no negotiations about them are being held. Israel will not receive information until it pays the price – before negotiations as well as afterwards.”
Goldin, a first lieutenant in the Givati Brigade, was killed on August 1, 2014 at the height of the operation after Hamas terrorists breached one of several ceasefires to attack his unit on the outskirts of the city of Rafah.
Likewise, Shaul was killed the previous month during clashes between Hamas infiltrators and the IDF in the Gaza Belt and his body was also captured by terrorists.
Hamas has continued to hold the two soldiers’ bodies as bargaining chips. It was rumored that Israel and Hamas would strike a deal for their return which could see the release of terrorists imprisoned in Israel, but Hamas later toughened its conditions for such a deal.
Mengistu, a 29-year-old Ethiopian Jew, was deeply depressed and suffering from mental health problems when he wandered unarmed across the border to Gaza.
Israel's Defense Ministry has determined that Mengistu was captured by Hamas after managing to cross the border, but the terrorist organization holding de facto rule over Gaza has provided no information about his whereabouts or condition.
The Bedouin who is being held in Gaza had reportedly crossed the border several times in the past. The precise details of his capture are still under a gag order.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)