Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed former Shin Bet security agency official Yaron Blum as the new head of negotiations to coordinate the release of Israelis held captive by Gaza-ruling Palestinian terror group Hamas.
Netanyahu assigned Blum, a key player in negotiating the prisoner exchange that freed Israeli solider Gilad Shalit in 2011, to head negotiations for the release of the bodies of IDF Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin, who were killed in Gaza in separate battles during the Israel-Hamas war in the summer of 2014.
Hamas is also believed to be holding Ethiopian-Israeli Avera Mengistu and Bedouin-Israeli Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed into Gaza willingly in 2014 and 2015, respectively. A third Israeli citizen, Bedouin Jumaa Abu Ghanima, entered Gaza in July 2016 and is also purportedly held by Hamas.
“I have decided to appoint Yaron Blum as coordinator for POWs and MIAs; he will coordinate our efforts to bring the boys back home,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. “He views this as a national mission….he was a member of the small team that dealt with the issue of Gilad Shalit and I think that he is the appropriate person for this important mission.”
The prime minister also said he personally called the families of the captive Israelis, and assured them Israel’s government understands the “moral and humanitarian debt” to bring their sons home.