Israel now says that Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin – who it earlier claimed had been "kidnapped" by Hamas – was actually killed while fighting in Gaza.
On Friday morning, the Israeli military announced:
"We are conducting extensive searches in S. Gaza in order to find a missing IDF soldier. We suspect the soldier was kidnapped by Hamas today"
Although the IDF initially did no more than express suspicions that Goldin had been captured, this soon became an accepted fact. The Jerusalem Post, for instance, reported:
"Gazan terrorists emerged on Friday morning from a tunnel into Israeli-held territory, less than 90 minutes deep into the planned 72-hour cease-fire. One terrorist detonated a suicide vest, killing two soldiers; another abducted a third soldier, Sec.-Lt. Hadar Goldin, back through the tunnel into Gaza."
Israel regards the capture of any of its soldiers as a particularly important issue, as witnessed by the case of Gilad Shalit who was held for five years and eventually released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
On Friday morning, Goldin's disappearance – and presumed capture – thus provided a major justification for Israel's decision to cancel the agreed ceasefire and launch renewed attacks on Gaza which left dozens more dead.
Accepting the Israeli version of events, the US then denounced Hamas and called for Goldin's release. President Obama told reporters:
"If they [Hamas] are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible."
Secetary of state John Kerry issued a statement saying:
"Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message."
Israel has yet to produce an explanation for its claim that Goldin had been abducted rather than simply being "missing in action" but its claim, reinforced at the highest level in the US, provided PR cover for its continuing bombardment of Gaza and an opportunity to whip up sentiment against Hamas.
In that respect there are similarities between Goldin's disappearance and the earlier murder of three Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, which became one of the triggers for the Gaza onslaught. Initial reports suggested they had been kidnapped by Hamas (though it now appears that Hamas was not directly involved).
It has since emerged that the teenagers were killed very soon after their abduction and the Israeli authorities had evidence of that but preferred to keep quiet about it – thus allowing a campaign to be established for the youngsters' release.
Haaretz newspaper, among others, accused the Israeli authorities of cynically exploiting hopes that they were still alive, in order to rally support:
"As well as taking advantage of the horrific murder of three Israeli teenagers to torpedo the Palestinian unity government and cut a swathe through Hamas, Israel’s government also used them as a particularly shoddy way of shoring up the bond between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora."
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Sunday, 3 August 2014