IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot reportedly told the parents of Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body has been held captive by Hamas since 2014, that if the political leadership was prepared to bring him and Israel's other POWs and MIAs back, it could have been done within a week.
The statement was apparently made on Friday during a private meeting between Eisenkot and Leah and Simcha Goldin, which was held amid reports that a ceasefire deal might be reached soon between Israel and Hamas.
The parents claim that Eisenkot assured them that once the political leadership decides definitively on bringing the captives home—it could be done within a week.
“All the projects currently in development in Gaza must be halted until the soldiers and citizens held captive by Hamas are freed,” stressed Eisenkot according to Goldin’s parents, and emphasized that the supply of everything apart from “water, food and medicine” to the strip should be suspended.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office confirmed the meeting, but added that the comments made by the Goldin family presented the chief of staff’s words out of context.
"The quotes from the meeting are partial and do not fully represent what was actually said," the IDF said.
“During the meeting, the chief of staff presented the position of the IDF, which has been made clear to the political leadership in private meetings and has not changed in recent years. The IDF is working tirelessly to secure the release of POWs and MIAs and will continue to do so," said the statement.
On Sunday, the parents responded to the IDF’s statement, insisting there is no “battle of interpretations" between them and the chief of staff.
“We have been in constant contact with the chief of staff for four years, we have never invented anything. This is what we understood from the conversation," the family said, adding that their statements had been taken out of context.
In additon, Goldin's parents said that the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the issue was made clear to them during the meeting.
"The prime minister does not want to bring the soldiers back to Israel, and he once again played with the families' feelings and tricked us. Netanyahu agrees to pay salaries to Hamas's terror apparatus without demanding the release of the soldiers,” bemoaned the parents.
“We are asking the Israeli people to demand the prime minister and the defense minister keep their promise that no arrangement will be reached without the soldiers’ return,” the Goldin family added.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday, as part of Egyptian efforts to reach an arrangement in Gaza.
Neither of the parties elaborated on what had been discussed during the meeting. However, according to Palestinian sources, Sisi is working to thwart Abbas’s attempts to sabotage the agreement.
The meeting was also attended by Egyptian Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel, who is in charge of promoting the possible Israel-Hamas deal.
Over the weekend, the Hamas-affiliated Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar published an initial draft of the ceasefire deal, which included ten steps, with each step conditional upon the implementation of the previous one.
The draft is yet to be finalized, since both sides are still conducting indirect talks on the subject.