Mother of Soldier Missing in Gaza Wants Him Declared MIA, Not Dead

Oron Shaul, who was in an armored personnel carrier that took a direct hit from an RPG, is currently listed as a fallen soldier whose place of burial is unknown.

Zahava Shaul, mother of fallen IDF soldier Oron Shaul, gives a press conference on December 13, 2015.
Gil Eliahu

The mother of a soldier who went missing in Gaza during last year's war has asked the Israel Defense Forces to change his status to "missing in action."

Staff-Sgt. Oron Shaul, who was one of the soldiers in an armored personnel carrier that took a direct hit from an RPG in Gaza City's Shujaiyeh neighborhood, is currently listed as a "fallen soldier whose place of burial is unknown."

Six of the seven soldiers killed in the incident were identified. Shaul was at first declared missing, but was later declared dead and the family sat shiva for him.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Shaul's mother, Zahava Shaul, said that she understood from the IDF's investigation into the incident that Oron was not killed. The family received the report about five months after the incident.

A family source said that her request had been passed on to the defense establishment.

In a press conference at the family's home in Poriya, near Tiberias, at the start of last week, the family called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF to clarify what happened to her son.

"We've been silent for a year-and-a-half and have given space to the politicians and the military apparatus," she said. "In light of the fact that there has been no progress, we need to explore new ideas that will accelerate Oron's return to Israel.

"It's important for me to emphasize that until today we have received no solid or substantiated information about whether Oron is alive or not; wounded or dead. We are in a state of uncertainty.

"The situation as it has been until now, can't continue."

The family also appealed to the Hamas leadership during the press conference, requesting information about Oron's fate.

“I know this has a price,” Zahava Shaul said, in a direct appeal to Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh. “The moment that you provide proof of my son’s true condition, I promise that we will push the state and the world to ensure that a deal is done."

It took the army several days to identify the remains of six of the seven Golani soldiers in the APC after the July 2014 incident. Shaul was never identified. He was initially defined as missing, but a special religious court under chief military rabbi Rafi Peretz subsequently declared him dead.

The court heard testimony from soldiers and medical and ballistic experts and examined evidence from the scene of the attack before pronouncing Shaul dead.