The families of slain IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Hamas to strike a deal for their sons' bodies on Sunday, prompting a wave of sympathy and criticism from the public and political officials.
But Israel already made such an offer to Hamas at the end of Operation Protective Edge, a senior diplomatic source revealed Tuesday - and Hamas promptly rejected it.
Instead, Hamas insisted then - as senior official Mahmoud A-Zahar insisted Monday, during a rally for Hamas's 28th anniversary in Gaza - that it would only release information about the soldiers in exchange for the release of every terrorist rearrested in Israel following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens last summer. Hamas, at the time, also insisted on lifting import and export restrictions which hinder their terror tunnel construction.
"Despite reports, this is not a new issue," the source stated to Walla! News. "Israel is not willing to release live terrorists [who were not arrested during Protective Edge - ed.], not originating from Gaza nor anywhere else, for the bodies of soldiers. This issue was clarified unequivocally."
Hamas, like during the months and years leading up to the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal, is biding its time and playing on the frayed nerves of the soldiers' families.
"Hamas is trying to manipulate the situation by playing with the media - including [using it to] pressure the Israeli government," another top official stated to the daily. "Time has passed and it realizes that the Israeli position is clear - they will not accept terrorist releases or anything beyond what was offered at the end of Operation Protective Edge."
"Hezbollah realized in the past that there is no link between civilians and soldiers, and Hamas will understand it, too," he added.