Attorney General:
'Hamas can be prevented from retrieving terrorists' bodies'

Defense Ministry denies report A-G Mandelblit against IDF's refusal to allow Hamas to retrieve bodies of terrorists from collapsed tunnel.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Terror tunnel
Terror tunnel

The Justice Ministry denied a report by journalist Ben Caspit in Maariv that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit stated that Israel must allow Hamas to search the terror tunnel destroyed by the IDF this week for the bodies of the 12 terrorists killed in the blast.

"We want to clarify that the Attorney General is working in full cooperation with the defense establishment and the IDF to formulate a legal response to the incident and to [Israel's] security needs," the ministry spokesman said.

According to the spokesperson, the request to search for the bodies of the terrorists came from the Red Cross. "In his opinion, the attorney general clarified that according to international law and the ruling of the Supreme Court, the search can be prevented or suspended in light of the security considerations presented by the relevant authorities."

"There is no basis to the claim that it was the duty of the government to allow the terrorist organizations operating in Gaza to collect the bodies of the terrorists," he added.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish home) also denied the Maariv report. "This is nonsense. The attorney general is working with the IDF and will defend its his position if necessary."

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major General Yoav Mordechai, stated that Israel would refuse the request to allow the retrieval of the bodies unless Hamas would share information regarding the bodies of two slain IDF soldiers it has been holding since 2014.

Hamas has been holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul since the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

In addition, two Israeli civilians who went missing in Gaza - Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed - are believed to be held by Hamasl.

A slew of leftist organizations appealed to the Attorney General and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories on Thursday to demand that the IDF allow the Palestinian rescue and other rescue teams to enter the Gaza Strip and locate the bodies, contending that the refusal to do so violates international law.

"The rescue teams cannot reach the missing people due to Israeli army's ban on Palestinians from approaching 300 meters from the fence despite this being an area within Gaza," wrote Muna Haddad of the anti-Zionist New Israel funded NGO Adalah.

"To prevent them from locating and rescuing those missing in the area currently under the control of the Israeli army is a blatantly illegal policy and contravenes both Israeli and international law and violates the Geneva Convention."

Adalah, which is run by Arabs in Haifa and the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip petitioned the Supreme Court against the decision. They have not petitioned Hamas to return the bodies of IDF soldiers and the two missing Israelis.

מנהרת טרור
Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

Tzur Goldin, the twin brother of Hadar Goldin, lauded the IDF's decision. 'This is the opportunity we have been waiting for in order to bring back Hadar and Oron," Goldin told Channel 2, referring to Oron Shaul, whose body Hamas has also been holding since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

"My brother was kidnapped in an incident involving tunnels and now we have here an incident regarding tunnels," Goldin continued. "Anyone who doesn't use this incident to return Hadar isn't trying."

Goldin said that Israel needed to put Hamas on the defensive. "We need to change this equation- they should be deterred from doing anything, not us. We're into the fourth year since my brother was killed and up to now, this is the first time that a government is not taking significant steps to bring home a missing person."