Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Sunday that the body of missing soldier Oron Shaul is “obviously” in the hands of Hamas, Israeli media reported.
“It’s obvious to us that Oron’s body is in the hands of Hamas, and we’re making every effort to retrieve it,” Yaalon said, according to the Israeli news site Ynet.
Yaalon said Israel was making diplomatic efforts in ceasefire talks with Hamas to bring Shaul’s body back to Israel, the Ynet report said.
Israeli authorities also suspect the body of soldier Hadar Goldin, a soldier killed on Aug. 1. in southern Gaza as a 72-hour ceasefire fell apart, is being held by Hamas.
The secretary-general of the Palestinian delegation told Ma’an Saturday that Israel had attempted to include the issue of two captured Israeli soldiers’ bodies in the negotiations.
Bassam al-Salihi said that Israel had offered to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the bodies of the two soldiers.
Al-Salihi said the delegation had refused to talk about the issue. The Hamas-affiliated al-Qassam Brigades earlier claimed responsibility for capturing Shaul, but denied any knowledge of Goldin’s whereabouts.
Hamas said on July 20 that its militants had captured a soldier in Gaza and read out Shaul’s identification number on live television, an announcement greeted with joy by many Palestinians due to the potential for a prisoner exchange.
Israel said five days later that Shaul had been “killed in battle,” but that his body was missing.
Hamas officials have not said whether Shaul is dead or alive.
Militants of the Islamist movement in 2006 captured soldier Gilad Shalit, who was eventually released as part of a deal in 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jail.
Israel has also in the past exchanged the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers for Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails, as well as the bodies of militants that were being held by Israel.
An Israel-Hezbollah exchange in 2008 traded the bodies of two Israeli soldiers for five Lebanese prisoners as well as the remains of nearly 200 Palestinian and Lebanese militants in Israeli custody.
More than 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)