JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel asked the Red Cross on Thursday to help recover the remains of two soldiers killed in Gaza, Israeli officials said.
They said the request was made to Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon during an Egyptian-mediated truce that has temporarily halted the war in the Palestinian enclave.
Israel has lost 64 soldiers in the fighting, among them Shaul Oron and Hadar Goldin, who went missing on July 20 and on August 2 respectively.
Israeli authorities later declared them dead based on forensic findings. Israel says it does not know where Oron’s body is but that the army recovered Goldin’s partial remains, allowing his family to hold a funeral.
Hamas said hours after Oron’s disappearance it had captured him alive, publishing his name and military identification number but no photographs. While acknowledging that its men ambushed Goldin’s unit, Hamas says it has no information on his whereabouts.
An ICRC spokeswoman, Cecilia Goin, declined to confirm or deny the Israeli request.
“What we do normally, in every case of armed conflict, is offer our services to facilitate the transfer of mortal remains. But we don’t discuss publicly any specific case,” she said.
A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, declined to comment other than to say: “Such matters are handled in special channels, and of course not through the media, as Netanyahu knows full well.”
In the past, Israel has twice released Arab prisoners in exchange for the bodies of soldiers slain by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah. Israeli authorities have shown unwillingness to bargain for Oron’s and Goldin’s remains.
“Hamas is certain that abducting a soldier is our soft underbelly,” security cabinet minister Tzipi Livni said on Saturday. “The less we expose this belly, the less they will try to abduct soldiers in the future. We need to make this clear.”
Writing by Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi; editing by Andrew Roche