In a cynical use of the fate of IDF soldiers captured during last summer's counter-terror Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, Hamas has claimed that Golani Brigade combat soldier First Sergeant Oron Shaul is alive, even though the IDF has officially declared him dead.
The site Al-Majd, which serves the Al-Qassam Brigades "armed wing" of the Hamas terrorist organization, has published "new details" about Shaul's capture, and the conditions in which he is "held alive" by Hamas terrorists.
Shaul was killed last July 20 during clashes between Hamas infiltrators and the IDF in the Gaza Belt; the clash erupted into anti-tank fire. Likewise Givati Brigade officer First Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was killed and his body captured in Gaza last August 1, at the height of the operation, after Hamas terrorists breached one of several ceasefires to attack his unit on the outskirts of the city of Rafah.
Hamas terrorists in Gaza still hold possession of Shaul's and Goldin's bodies and refuse to return them.
But the Hamas website claimed Shaul is still alive, and was abducted by two masked terrorists who took him blindfolded to a hideaway where he was locked in a corner with his hands tied. Hamas went on to claim he was fed soup and hummus the first day of his capture, and was given medicine.
The propaganda piece went on to say that after a while Shaul realized he would not be released until Israel met all of the demands of Hamas, and he asked his captors what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) were doing to secure his rescue.
They told him that Israel is claiming he died and is not working to release him - the article concludes by noting that not all of the details are necessarily accurate, in an understated admission of the fictional nature of the account.
Shaul was officially declared as having fallen in battle based on an in-depth IDF investigation of facts on the ground. Hamas has refused to provide any evidence regarding Shaul's fate, or to acknowledge it is in possession of Goldin's body as well.
The Hamas article would appear to be an attempt to present an achievement and raise support in the coastal enclave of Gaza, where many oppose the terrorist group for the damage wrought by its latest war against Israel. Hamas is also embroiled in clashes with an Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate in Gaza.
It also would appear to be an attempt to shape public opinion in Israel and create pressure on the government to give in to Hamas's demands, in a similar fashion to the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal in which 1,027 terrorists were released.
Hamas in April reportedly toughened their demands for the return of the bodies, demanding the release of the fourth and final batch of jailed terrorists who were never freed as part of a series of "goodwill gestures" during the last round of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, as well as the 63 terrorists released under the 2011 Shalit deal, who were rearrested for breaching conditions and committing terror related crimes.