The family of captive IDF soldier Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin demanded Israel on Saturday night not to leave the Gaza Strip before bringing him back.
"I demand the state of Israel not to leave Gaza until it brings my son home," Hadar Goldin's mother, Lea Hedva, said. "Don't abandon my child or anyone else's child who went to protect the State of Israel."
"Everyone in our family are officers in the IDF except for me," she said. Her children, Lea Hedva noted, "were sent to Gaza to defend the south."
"He's our smile," she said of Hadar. "He's the twin and other half of Tzur."
"This war started when three teenagers were kidnapped. Dozens of soldiers lost their lives and if we pull out of there when a kidnapped soldier remains, it'll be a failure," Hadar's older sister, Ayelet, said.
Speaking to her brother, Ayelet vowed, "we won't let them leave Gaza without bringing you home."
"I've been a Battalion Commander, I did reserve duty until the age of 50, and I don't believe the IDF will abandon a combat soldier," Goldin's father said.
Telling reporters he served under the direct command of current IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Goldin's father asserted that "it doesn't make sense that he (Gantz) will order the IDF to pull out when there's a soldier inside."
Hadar decided to get engaged to his girlfriend Edna right after the end of Operation Brother's Keeper, his twin brother Tzur said.
"I asked him why, it was a bit odd. He said that precisely at this moment when there are kidnapped teens, we're a proud family and a proud and happy people. We want to make everyone happy," Tzur said.
Edna, Hadar's fiancee, spoke to him, "the hero of Israel, I love you and miss you. I'm waiting for you so we can dance at our wedding soon."
Running into the tunnel to look for Hadar
Meanwhile, a day after Goldin was taken captive in southern Gaza, new details have emerged regarding the circumstances of his possible kidnapping.
According to information received by Ynet Saturday, the Givati Patrol Company, headed by Maj. Benaya Sarel - who was killed in the incident - was in the midst of searching an area adjacent to a mosque in which the IDF believed there was a terror tunnel reaching into Israel when the fateful incident occurred.
Beforehand, the company divided into a number of smaller groups and then proceeded towards their target area on foot. Maj. Sarel led the crew and was joined by Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni, who was also killed in the incident, 2nd.-Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was taken captive, and a communication officer.
The rest of the Patrol Company's units were a few dozen meters away in an open field facing the neighborhood near the mosque.
According to testimonies received by Ynet, Maj. Sarel and Staff Sgt. Gidoni were both shot at close range after a blast from suicide bomber who detonated himself pushed them back.
Immediately after the blast, the third combat soldier in the unit - Goldin - was taken into an adjacent tunnel shaft - presumably the one the terrorists emerged from.
At this point, with their commanding officer Maj. Sarel dead, it took the forces close to three minutes to regroup and come to term with what had happened. The situation was further exacerbated by the gunfire that had opened on them the moment the suicide bomber detonated himself.
A senior Givati Brigade commander ordered another unit from the Patrol Company to open fire and throw grenades into into the tunnel into which Goldin was taken. They were further ordered to enter the tunnel and attempt to engage with the terrorist inside and find the missing soldier.
The deputy company commander, Maj. Sharel’s second-in-command, ran into the structure housing the entrance to the tunnel, and down the tunnel shaft. The tunnel turned out to be quite short and ended in the adjacent mosque - a dead end. Fearing the place was boobytrapped, the forces were ordered to backtrack.
In the meantime, fire exchanges with terrorist had begun in the street next to the mosque, and the army decided to bomb the mosque, and then search for additional tunnel shafts. After the deed was done, forces searched and searched, but no additional tunnels - nor any clue leading to the whereabout of Goldin - could be found.
A source within the IDF said that the army does not investigate such incidents through the media, and claimed internal and preliminary investigations were already underway.
“The full and more detailed investigations will take place when the fighting ends,” he added.
Search for Goldin continues
A senior IDF official spoke with Ynet and detailed the army's efforts to find the missing 23-year-old officer, which are focused on the Rafah area near Gaza's border with Egypt, saying the IDF is still not sure if Goldin is alive or not.
The senior IDF official admitted that in light of the attack's nature, the IDF "still does not have a working assumption of whether he was killed or not.
"We are trying to figure out and recreate exactly what happened. We still do not have full details regarding the suicide bomber, but we do know the troops died as a result for fire and the blast."
Commenting on the incident itself, he said "Some 1,500-2,000 meters from our territory (the Patrol Company) came across an open area near some homes, and then they ran into a terror cell which came out of a tunnel shaft into which the officer (Goldin) was then taken."
Hamas' military wing said it believes Goldin might have been killed in the clash with Hamas' fighters. "We believe all members of this group have died in an (Israeli) strike, including the Zionist soldier the enemy says disappeared," the terror group said.
Israeli officials have refused to comment on this claim.