Russia has agreed to pressure Hamas to return the bodies of two soldiers and repatriate three Israeli civilians it is holding in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday after meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
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“I would like to thank you for your willingness to assist in a prime humanitarian matter – the return of the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, and of the three Israeli civilians being held in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu told reporters after the meeting in Jerusalem. “This expresses the friendship between us.”
The issue also came up in a meeting between Medvedev and opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
“I am asking you as the prime minister of one of the most important powers with great influence in the Middle East to place your full weight behind this just humanitarian and political act and return the soldiers and release Abera Mengistu,” Herzog said, referring to one of the three civilians.
In February, when Netanyahu met with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, he asked for German mediation on the issue.
In the past, during the terms of both Netanyahu and his predecessor Ehud Olmert, Germany helped Israel negotiate with Hamas for the release of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. A senior German intelligence official mediated but failed to achieve Shalit’s release at the time.
Medvedev arrived in Israel on Wednesday evening and visited the Western Wall. He also met with President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday.
In his talk with reporters, Netanyahu also discussed the situation in Syria. He thanked Medvedev for the cooperation between Israel and Russia designed to prevent clashes between the two militaries during Russia’s operations in Syria.
Netanyahu told Medvedev that Israel opposed any Iranian military presence in Syria and the transferring of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. Medvedev said Israel and Russia were both dealing with terror.
“This threatens the whole world, but here in this region it is especially felt,” he said. “We also suffer from terror and we must work together against it.”