Remains of a human skeleton were found on Sunday under the rubble of a house in Gaza City’s eastern neighborhood of Shujayya, which was devastated by an Israeli ground incursion during the Israeli military offensive in 2014.
The discovery of the two-year-old remains has caused painful memories for the families of Palestinians who were declared missing during the war, which left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead, including at least 1,462 civilians, according to the UN.
Human rights groups reported that numerous Palestinians went missing during the 51-day military offensive. Some were later found, either alive or dead, although the fate of many others remains unknown.
— x Madenie x dan (@MadzXdan) July 31, 2016
Among those still missing two years later is Noor Omran, who disappeared after Israeli ground troops invaded the town of al-Qarara in the Khan Yunis district in the southern Gaza Strip.
His brother Muatasim believes “It’s likely that the issue of missing persons, including my brother, is tied to the issue of Israeli soldiers held in Gaza,” referring to Israeli soldiers who disappeared during the 2014 war, and have been held as a bargaining chip between Hamas and the Israeli government.
The two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, were pronounced dead during the 2014 war. Hamas later claimed to be holding their bodies.
Hamas: Israel 'doesn't know' the status of the missing soldiers
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In November, the soldiers’ families pressured the Israeli government to halt the return of all Palestinian bodies, including those of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank killed since October, until Hamas turned over the soldiers’ bodies.
In April 2015, the Israeli government announced that it held the bodies of 19 Palestinians killed during the 2014 war.
Prisoners affairs expert, Abd al-Nasser Farawaneh, said, “Israel hasn’t announced the names or details in an attempt to put pressure on Hamas and to use it as a bargaining chip for negotiations.”
— Susan John-Richards (@SJRTooting) November 13, 2015
Hamas leadership has also not released numbers or details regarding missing Gazans, which Farawaneh attributes to “security reasons,” claiming that Hamas cannot announce the names of missing people since it remains unaware of who is among the 19 bodies held by Israel, and whose bodies possibly remain trapped under rubble two years on.