Families of Israelis missing in Gaza launch campaign for return

The families of three Israelis missing in Gaza have demanded that the return of their loved ones should be a condition of the reconciliation agreement set to be signed between Israel and Turkey today.

The families of Oren Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avera Mengistu are appealing that their fate should also be part of the deal. Shaul and Goldin are both presumed to have been killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, but their remains are still in the hands of Hamas. Shaul’s family set up a protest outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Shaul’s mother Zehava said that the family had met Netanyahu many times and that he “promised us there wouldn’t be negotiations that didn’t include Oron and Hadar Goldin”. Meanwhile, Goldin’s father Simcha told YNet: “This deal is a gift to Hamas… a first failure for Israel after Operation Protective Edge, and that’s very severe in our eyes.”

Mengistu is thought to have wandered across the Gaza border in September 2014, possibly suffering from mental health issues. His brother Ilan said that any talks about humanitarian assistance in Gaza must “mention the humanitarian need of my brother”. However, media reports this morning suggest that the reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey does not include any reference to Shaul, Goldin or Mengistu. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister’s office told Haaretz that “overt and covert efforts” continue to bring Mengistu plus the remains of Shaul and Goldin home, which “won’t stop until the mission is accomplished”.

Following numerous rounds of talks during the past year, Israeli and Turkish leaders are expected to make a simultaneous announcement today, outlining the details of an agreement to re-establish full diplomatic ties after a six-year hiatus. The terms will include concessions over Turkish access to Gaza, including the import of Turkish goods via Israel and the establishment of a Turkish-funded hospital, desalination and power plant in the Gaza Strip.

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