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Israel changes status of soldiers declared dead in Gaza to 'captured'

Status change is designed to encourage the government to ramp up efforts to secure a return of the slain soldiers' remains
Israeli reserve forces entering the Gaza Strip (AFP)

Two Israeli soldiers believed killed during the 2014 Gaza war are to have their status altered to captured and missing in action, the Israeli Defence Ministry decided on Friday.

According to the Maariv newspaper, the status of Oren Shaul and Hadar Goldin will be changed due to a lack of information about the conditions of their capture or loss, and the non-existence of a burial ground. Both were presumed killed in action after their disappearances during the conflict in Gaza in summer 2014.

The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, announced the capture of Shaul in the wake of an attack on the armoured vehicle he was barricaded in together with a number of soldiers in Al-Shuja’iyah neighbourhood at the start of the war.

Shaul was later confirmed by the Israelis to have been killed by an anti-tank mine during the fighting, while Goldin died during fighting in southern Gaza.

Goldin is still listed as "killed in action", but will also now receive the additional status of "missing in action and in captivity".

Shaul will also be recognised as "killed in action" and as a soldier whose place of burial is unknown, but also as "missing in action and in captivity".

According to Haaretz, the implementation of apparently contradictory statuses is meant as a means of ensuring that efforts continue to return all remains to Israel.

“We praise the IDF [Israeli army] and the security apparatus for the new status of Hadar and Oron," said the Goldin family, according to Ynet.

"Indeed, the state of Israel’s declaration about Hadar shows that the objective of returning him has not been completed and that the country is fully obligated to return Hadar to his grave in Israel.

“We expect practical steps to be taken by the state, by the IDF and the security apparatus to bring about Shaul’s and Hadar’s speedy return.” 

However, members of Aaron's family were apparently not aware of the change when contacted by Ynet.

"The truth is we have not yet received any information regarding the matter," said Zehava Shaul, Shaul's mother.

More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the July 2014 war in Gaza, mostly civilians, while 75 Israelis, mostly soldiers, are also thought to have been killed.