Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced a complete halt to the release of terrorists’ bodies, a shift in policy meant to strengthen Israel’s bargaining position when facing off with Hamas.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett instructed the IDF and the defense establishment on Wednesday to stop the release of terrorist bodies, regardless of their organizational affiliation or the nature of the attack committed.
The change of policy was announced only weeks after Bennett stepped into his position, following a number of discussions with senior security officials.
Exceptional cases will remain at the discretion of the defense minister, the Ministry of Defense noted.
The new policy will be introduced to the Security Cabinet and will come into effect after its approval, “as part of a broader deterr[ence] [strategy],” the ministry added.
Bennett has long campaigned against the release of terrorists’ bodies without terrorist organizations’ returning Israeli captives or the bodies of Israelis who perished in battle, for which terrorist bodies can be used as bargaining chips.
The new policy is sure to be challenged by pro-Palestinian organizations at the High Court of Justice.
The Goldin family, whose son’s body is held by Hamas, welcomed Bennett’s decision.
“Releasing terrorists is a prize that Hamas cannot be given while it is holding the soldiers and civilians,” the family stated.
Lt. Hadar Goldin, of the elite Givati Reconnaissance Unit, was killed and abducted by Hamas during a battle with terrorists during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. Two other IDF soldiers also died in the incident. The battle ensued hours after a UN-sponsored ceasefire came into effect.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, is believed to be holding his remains, as well as those of Oron Shaul, another IDF soldier killed during the 2014 summer war.
Shaul was killed in battle together with another six Golani soldiers in Shajaiya when their armored personnel carrier was hit by an anti-tank rocket. His body was never recovered and is assumed to be held by Hamas.
Hamas is also holding Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed who crossed the border into Gaza several years ago. The two are believed to be mentally ill and have been denied medical care or contact with loved ones.