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NYC Leaders Call on Hamas to Free Israeli Hostages, Release Soldiers’ Bodies

Leading political and communal leaders in New York City called on the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas on Monday to release the two Israeli hostages it is holding captive, as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the Gaza Strip two years ago.

At a Manhattan press conference organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), the politicians and communal leaders called on Hamas to free Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, both of whom suffer from mental illnesses and inadvertently crossed into Gaza. They also demanded the release of the bodies of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed two years during Operation Protective Edge.

Mengistu, an Israeli citizen of Ethiopian descent, climbed the border fence with Gaza in September 2014, while al-Sayed crossed into the territory in April 2015 and was accused of spying for Israel. Both men have been held without access to medical personnel or contact with their families.

Oron Shaul was critically wounded along with six other Israeli soldiers on July 20, 2014, when a Hamas anti-tank missile hit the personnel carrier he was riding in. Hamas fighters then brought his body back to Gaza. Hadar Goldin was killed along with two other soldiers in southern Gaza, where they were ambushed during a ceasefire on August 1, 2014. His body was seized by Hamas and smuggled through a terror tunnel.

The assembled state legislators, New York City Council members, and congresspeople — namely Reps. Eliot Engel (D – N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (D – N.Y.), and Lee Zeldin (R – N.Y) —  endorsed a draft resolution condemning Hamas at the press conference, which will be introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives, the New York State Assembly, the New York State Senate, and the New York City Council.

The resolution explained how Hamas, which is “responsible for the death of more than 500 innocent civilians, including 24 United States citizens,” captured the four, then demanded their immediate and unconditional release. It also called on Hamas to allow the Israeli captives to be seen by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and inform their families of their status.

The resolution also expressed its “vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state within recognized and secure borders.” It also affirmed a “deep interest in achieving a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the creation of a democratic, viable, and independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside the State of Israel.”

Hadar Goldin’s mother, Leah, can be seen calling for the release of her son’s body in the video embedded below.

Dr. Goldin, who attended the press conference with her husband, Prof. Simha Goldin, mourned the loss of her artistic son, who designed the invitation for his wedding even as “he prepared for war.” The nuptials, which had been scheduled for September 18, “never took place.”

Our grief and loss is all the more painful because Hamas continues to hold Hadar’s body as bargaining chip (and the body of Oron Shaul, who was also killed in defense of Israel). Think for a moment of what this means– to use the dead bodies of our children to bargain for political concessions!  Please think of how horrid and indecent this behavior is!

Our families have committed ourselves to recovering the bodies of our sons and giving them the decent burial that they deserve in their homeland Israel.

Our families need and deserve a proper closure.

JCRC-NY Executive Vice President and CEO Michael Miller pointed out that the United Nations has a responsibility to work for the release of Goldin’s body, because the ceasefire that was violated by Hamas was arranged by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. “Indeed, Hadar was not a victim of the war between Israel and Hamas, but a victim of the UN ceasefire. The United Nations bears responsibility to return Hadar Goldin home to his family for a proper burial,” Miller said.

In How Hamas Destroys Its People, as Seen Through the Eyes of IDF Soldiers, published in the September 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Yardena Schwartz interviewed Sgt. Jonny S., who described the ambush in which Hadar Goldin was killed and his body taken.

[Photo: JCRC-NY ]