GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas' military wing the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades published two videos on Saturday sarcastically celebrating the 23rd birthday of Israeli soldier Oron Shaul, who disappeared during the Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip in 2014. Oron Shaul, along with Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin, were pronounced dead by Israel during the war, though Hamas has claimed to be holding their bodies, which Hamas seeks to use as political leverage to coordinate the release of Palestinian political prisoners held in Israel.
Hamas has never explicitly said whether the two Israeli soliders are alive or dead.
The first video shows a cake sitting on a table that reads in Hebrew: “Oron, three years in Hamas captivity.” Then, the phrase: "a new year comes while Shaul is away from home," appears on the screen in both in Arabic and Hebrew.
The second video shows the face of Shaul digitally imposed over an actor, bound to a chair with a birthday cake set on a table in front of him, adorned with three candles symbolizing the soldier’s time in alleged captivity.
As the soldier tries free himself from the ropes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dressed as a clown, steps into the room through a darkened door and blows out the candles.
The video ends with the phrase: "the decision is in the hands of the Israeli government."
In 2006, Gaza militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and held him for five years before freeing him in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Many have since been rearrested in violation of the agreement, and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades has demanded their release before starting talks in a new prisoner swap deal.
Israeli news site Arutz Sheva reported Sunday morning that the Foreign Affairs and Security Cabinet of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, scheduled a meeting for later in the day on possibilities for exerting pressure on Hamas to release of the bodies of soldiers Goldin and Shaul.