'We will not have development in Gaza without captives' return'

US envoy Jason Greenblatt sees Hamas terror tunnel and misue of humanitarian aid, calls on terror organization to return all Israel captives

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Greenblatt in Hamas terror tunnel
Greenblatt in Hamas terror tunnel
COGAT spokesperson

US Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt toured the border with Gaza Wednesday with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

The purpose of the tour was to allow Greenblatt to see up-close the security issues Israel faces when dealing with the Hamas terrorist organization which rules the Gaza Strip.

Maj. Gen. Mordechai briefed Greenblatt on the security situation and the existing threats in the Gaza Strip, along with the measures taken to ease the conditions of the enclave's residents as part of Israel's humanitarian policy.

During the tour, Maj. Gen. Mordechai and Greenblatt visited the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which serves as a central route for transporting food, goods and equipment to and from the Gaza Strip. They were accompanied by the head of the Crossing Points Authority in the Defense Ministry, Brigadier General (res.) Kamil Abu Rokun.

Greenblatt also torued a Hamas terrorist tunnel in the area as well as the Erez Crossing, which serves hundreds of Gaza residents daily for various purposes. He met and spoke with residents of the Gaza Strip at the crossing.

Maj. Gen. Mordechai emphasized that "One kilometer of tunnels costs $200,000. This means that instead of a tunnel, hospitals can be built in the Gaza Strip. But Hamas' priorities are first and foremost their military wing and terrorism."

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories made it clear that Israel would not assist in any significant development in Gaza as long as Hamas continues to hold Israeli citizens captive, including the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

"Hamas acts cynically and exploits civilian-humanitarian assistance to strengthen itself and the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip pays the price of Hamas' conduct. The task of returning missing IDF soldiers has not yet been completed and we will not allow significant development in the Gaza Strip without first resolving the issue," Maj. Gen. Mordechai said.

Greenblatt, said following his tour: "I visited the Gaza border today. I learned a lot about the difficult challenges facing the IDF, Israeli residents living in nearby areas and the residents of Gaza as a result of Hamas' misuse of humanitarian aid and its commitment to terrorism and violence. It is clear that the PA must resume its role in managing the Gaza Strip, since Hamas has severely harmed the residents and failed to meet their most basic needs."

"I call upon Hamas to return the [bodies of] Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were taken by them and release the Israeli citizens they hold - Avera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed, and d Jumaa Abu Ghanima," added Greenblatt.

The US envoy also visited the Iron Dome battery and Kibbutz Nahal Oz, where he met with the head of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, Alon Shuster, and the residents of the kibbutz. He listened to the residents' descriptions of what living near Gaza under the threat of rockets and terror tunnels is like.