The pro-Hamas media network Al Jazeera has released previously unseen footage of the former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was held prisoner in Gaza for five years in what an Israeli official called “cheap and transparent manipulation.”
Shalit was released in 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 imprisoned terrorists in Israel.
Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, also released an audio clip that Hamas claims is another imprisoned Israeli soldier calling for “help” to be released and returned to his family in Israel.
In the audio recording of dubious origin unexplained by Al Jazeera, a person in heavily accented Hebrew claims to be an Israeli soldier “in captivity of Izzadin] al-Qassam Brigades,” the military wing of the terrorist organization Hamas. However, no living Israeli soldier is known to be currently held in captivity in the Gaza Strip. The “soldier” in the recording claimed that he “dies every day” and ended by saying “I hope the State of Israel still exists... I hope I will soon be in the arms of my family.”
However, Yaron Blum, the Israeli government’s chief negotiator for the release of hostages, dismissed the alleged audio recording of an Israeli “soldier.”
“Hamas is in distress after the severe blows it suffered in Operation Guardian of the Walls and is using cheap and transparent manipulation,” said Blum.
While the Israeli families have been fighting for years for the return of the two living civilians and the bodies of two dead soldiers, the prisoner exchange would also help Hamas’ image after a devastating 11-day conflict with Israel.
Egypt is currently facilitating indirect talks between Hamas and the Jewish state regarding the return of the bodies of the IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul as well as the captured Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
“Israel is well aware of the situation of the boys Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, of blessed memory, and of the two civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed, who crossed the border while they were still alive,” Blum said. “Israel will continue to act with determination and responsibility to bring back the boys and the civilians.”
After hearing the audio recording, Mengistu’s mother said that the voice did not belong to her captured son, a mentally ill civilian who entered the Gaza strip under disputed circumstances.
“I am waiting for my son and hope to meet him soon, like they always promised me,” the mother told Israeli media outlets.
Al-Sayed’s parents also denied that the controversial recorded voice belonged to his captured son, according to the Israeli Kan news station.
“We won’t engage in speculation, it’s not our son,” Shaaban al-Sayed told the station. The father also called the recording a form of “psychological pressure.”
Like Mengistu, al-Sayed reportedly also suffers from a mental illness and it is unclear how he entered the restricted Gaza Strip from Israel.
Seeking to capture Israeli soldiers and using them as bargaining chips for the release of imprisoned terrorists has been a high priority for Hamas for years. However, with the exception of Shalit, Goldin and Shaul, Hamas has largely failed.
Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar recently said he was prepared to indirectly negotiate a prisoner swap with Israel through Egyptian mediation. Hamas is reportedly seeking the release of over 1,000 terrorist-affiliated prisoners in exchange for the bodies of Goldin and Shaul and the Israeli civilians Mengistu and al-Sayed.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.