This summer marks six years since Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin were killed during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip. Throughout those six years Hamas has refused to return their bodies to their families and continues to use the issue as a bargaining chip to try to secure the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel for terror offences.
In September it will be five years since it became publicly known that Hamas is also holding two mentally ill Israeli civilians who entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord – Avera Mengistu in September 2014 and Hisham al Sayed in April 2015. Hamas continues to hold both men hostage, likewise in order to advance its aim of getting terrorists released from prison.
So what have BBC audiences heard about those stories? While the BBC did mention Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin in reports it produced during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, since then the corporation has produced very little follow-up reporting.
The most recent brief reference to the fact that Hamas is holding two Israeli civilians and the remains of two Israeli soldiers was heard on a domestic BBC radio station in August 2018 when Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell told listeners that:
“…in the past month tensions between Israel and Hamas have flared up three times with Palestinian militants firing rockets and Israeli airstrikes. The intervention of Egypt and the UN calmed the situation. So what are the chances now for a longer term deal? Not good says Israeli defence analyst Alex Fishman. He points to the Palestinians’ own deep political rift and Hamas’ insistence that it won’t return two Israelis jailed in Gaza or two soldiers’ remains without a release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel.”
No further information was provided.
Prior to that, in January 2017, visitors to the BBC News website saw a report which included a quote from a statement made by the Israeli prime minister’s office:
“The security cabinet discussed ways to effect the return of fallen soldiers and of civilians held in the Gaza Strip …”
No explanation was given to readers concerning those civilians but the BBC added:
“In September 2016, Israeli officials said that Hamas had rejected the offer of an exchange for both prisoners and the remains of fallen citizens.”
Notably, organisations including the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch (which the BBC usually quotes and promotes enthusiastically) have in the past put out statements condemning Hamas’ failure to act according to humanitarian law.
Nevertheless, five years after their imprisonment became public knowledge, BBC audiences still have no idea why there are “two Israelis jailed in Gaza” and no BBC reporter has made the effort to interview their families or the two families who have been campaigning to have their sons’ remains returned to them for six years.
In fact, BBC audiences have never even heard the names Avera Mengistu and Hisham al Sayed.