The Qatari-based Al Jazeera on Sunday night aired an audio recording in Hebrew of someone that Hamas claims is an Israeli soldier it is holding captive in the Gaza Strip.
Israel believes that Hamas has the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two IDF soldiers who fell in the 2014 Gaza war. Hamas is also believed to be holding as captives Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two Israelis who entered the Strip of their accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Speaking in broken Hebrew, the man in the recording says he is an Israeli soldier held by the military wing of Hamas.
"I wonder and hope if Israel still exists," the voice says on the recording says.
"If it does, I wonder if its leaders are thinking of Israeli soldiers in captivity, worrying about them and working for their release. I am dying every day. I feel the hope to be near my family beating in my heart. Please help me," the voice says.
It was unclear who was speaking on the recording, which was aired as Israel and Hamas were discussing the prospect of a prisoner swap following the bitter 11-day war they fought last month.
The family of Mengistu have said it is not the voice of their son while the family of al-Sayed have not yet commented on the recording.
Hamas has not said whose voice is supposed to be on the recording.
The recording was broadcast by Al Jazeera network as part of their Arabic-language programing and included previously unseen footage of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was freed from five years of captivity in Gaza in 2011 as part of a prisoner swap that included the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel.
Among the Palestinians who were freed in the 2011 deal was Yahya Sinwar, the current head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel's coordinator for negotiating the return of POWs and MIAs, Yaron Blum, called the recording "cheap and transparent manipulation."
"Israel is well aware of the fact that the two soldiers Hadar Goldin and Shaul Oron are dead and the two civilians are still alive and will do everything in its power to secure their release and return them home," Blum said.
The Al Jazeera program also included an interview with Marwan Issa, the deputy chief of the Hamas military wing, discussing a possible prisoner swap.
"This is a top priority of Hamas," Issa said. "We are reminding our prisoners held in Israeli jails that we will work towards their release."
Issa said that the Israelis held in Gaza are being protected by their captors.
Israel has demanded that Hamas provide proof of life for its civilians as part of prisoner swap negotiations and is seeking to link the exchange to any future agreement on the reconstruction of Gaza after the May war.
An Israeli official said the country was willing to release some Hamas prisoners from jail but would not release terrorists with "blood on the hands," which has consistently referred to those who had murdered Israelis.
First published: 08:21, 06.07.21