Netanyahu suggests swap of Palestinians’ bodies for Israeli captives

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Monday to bring back Israelis being held by Hamas — and indicated that he may use the bodies of Palestinians killed in a tunnel explosion last week as a bargaining chip..

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Monday to bring back Israeli citizens and the bodies of two soldiers held by Hamas. Photo by Neil Hall/EPA
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Monday to bring back Israeli citizens and the bodies of two soldiers held by Hamas. Photo by Neil Hall/EPA

Netanyahu made the remarks as he spoke of his government’s operational goals.

“Protect the country, with a simple rule: Whoever tries to attack us, we attack them,” he said Monday. “The second rule is: There are no free gifts. We will bring our boys back home, and there are no free gifts.”

Netanyahu clarified that “free gifts” meant the Israel would not return the bodies of five dead Palestinian militants before Israel is returned citizens being held by Hamas — Avraham Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Juma Abu Anima, and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

The bodies of the Palestinians — who were killed and buried when Israeli forces destroyed a Gaza tunnel last week — were recovered on Sunday.

Hamas forces said they would not negotiate for the bodies, saying Israel “will not be able to bargain over our fighters.”

“Our battle is open-ended and shall not end,” Ahmad al-Mudalal, a senior Hamas member, said. “The freedom tunnel is not the only tunnel owned by the Islamic Jihad. It has many tunnels and many options.”

Adalah, an Arab-Israeli human rights organization, submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice asking it to require the Israeli government to return the bodies.

The Justice Ministry said Friday it wasn’t the “duty of the government to allow the terrorist organizations operating in Gaza to collect the bodies of its terrorists.”

By Sara Shayanian