The bodies of the five missing Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militants killed in the terror tunnel that the IDF blew up last Monday are being held by the IDF, it was cleared for publication Sunday evening.
The IDF Spokesperson stated the bodies were located during supplementary operations to expose and thwart the terror tunnel and the operatives inside it.In response to the IDF's announcement, PIJ alluded to future kidnappings to force exchange deals for the bodies of their deceased militants.
"The bodies of the five martyrs will not remain for long in Israel's hands. We know how to recover the bodies of our people," PIJ said. "The campaign continues and will not end."
PIJ has already admitted to digging the tunnel in an effort to infiltrate Israeli territory to kidnap Israeli citizens, to be exchanged—dead or alive—for Palestinian militants held in Israeli prisons for security offences.
On Friday, Palestinian television network Al-Quds, affiliated with Hamas, reported that efforts in the Gaza Strip to locate the bodies had been halted.
Al-Quds claimed in its report that Israel was trying to locate the bodies in a part of the tunnel situated on the Israeli side of the border.
On Thursday, Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, petitioned the High Court to "allow Palestinian search and rescue teams and civil defense to enter the buffer zone on the Gaza border to extract people currently trapped underground, some 50 meters from the border fence and inside the Gaza Strip."
In its response, the state on Sunday asked the High Court to reject the petition out of hand, due to the fact "it is not relevant and the assistance requested is not relevant," because the missing terrorists have been declared dead.
The state further noted that "there is operational activity that has not yet been completed. At present, IDF forces are still carrying out different operations in the field relating to the tunnel."
Currently, the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai on Thursday stressed that Israel "would not allow search efforts in the Gaza Strip security zone without progress on the issue of Israeli POWs and MIAs."
In response to COGAT's announcement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared the five missing terrorists were dead, bringing the death toll to 12, with 11 others injured.
"The demolished tunnel is not the only tunnel we have that crosses into Israel," Hamas said, stressing it would not provide information on Israel's MIAs and POWs in return for the five missing terrorists' bodies.
Leah and Simcha Goldin, the parents of Hadar Goldin, held a press conference Sunday afternoon to announce they will be appealing to the High Court of Justice against the government, the Security Cabinet and the head of both, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In their appeal to the court, Goldin's parents demand to prevent the handing over of deceased Hamas terrorists back to the organization, to halt visitation of all Hamas prisoners in Israel and to reduce all entry visas for humanitarian purposes granted to Gaza residents.
"The Security Cabinet has decided to exert pressure on Hamas so it understands holding onto IDF soldiers is a burden, to send a message that Israel is changing the rules and a heavy toll will be collected for every additional day they hold on to those soldiers," Simcha Goldin said.
"However, to the highest absurdity, the government hasn't the slightest inclination to implement the Cabinet's decisions. Israel has completely halted visitations of Gaza residents to Israeli jails, but families in the West Bank are asking for the same thing on a daily basis. The government of Israel has capitulated to Hamas," he accused.