Israel’s decision came during Sunday’s meeting called by the government’s Security Cabinet to discuss ways to finally retrieve the missing Israeli soldiers and citizens, those dead and alive, held by Hamas since 2014.
Israel’s Security Cabinet on Sunday announced a new policy in which the bodies of Hamas terrorists will not be returned to their families, but will be buried by Israeli authorities instead.
Cabinet members passed the measure unanimously during a meeting convened to discuss possible ways to bring back the bodies of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, and citizens held in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office, a plan was also outlined to bring the missing Israelis back, although it did not disclose details of the plan.
Goldin and Shaul’s bodies were not recovered from the battlefield following Israel’s conflict with Hamas in 2014 and are considered by the Israeli military to have been killed in action based on forensic evidence.
The decision comes a day after Hamas’s military wing on Saturday released videos of a mock birthday party for Shaul.
A 36-second video shows six people in military fatigues sitting on chairs and surrounding another person on a wheelchair who is wearing a shirt bearing the number 102. Their faces cannot be seen.
In the middle of them on a table is a cake with three candles bearing a message written in Hebrew that reads: “Three years in Hamas jail”.
In the background a choir sings in Hebrew: “Happy Birthday Oron”.
Since the end of Operation Protective Edge, at least two more Israelis have crossed into the Gaza strip, and a number of Gazan Palestinians have tried to illegally cross into Israel.
Ethiopian-Israeli Avraham Mengistu independently crossed the security fence into Gaza on September 7, 2014, shortly after the war ended.
Mengistu successfully jumped over the fence and crossed into Gaza before the troops were able to stop him. After moving away from the fence, he began moving south and when he got to the Gazan shore, he joined a local group of fishermen and has not been seen since, according to reports.
The second civilian missing in Gaza is Hisham al-Syed, an Arab-Israeli of Bedouin origin. His family of reported him missing on April 20, 2015.
Earlier this year, al-Syed’s father issued a statement calling on Hamas to release his son, who he said suffers from mental problems and is not a soldier.
Hamas hopes to use the bodies of the dead soldiers in order to bargain for the release of its own prisoners in Israeli jails.
Hamas in August announced that it was negotiating a prisoner exchange with Israel, which would see the release of Shaul’s and Goldin’s bodies, as well as two Israeli citizens thought to still be alive, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.
In September, however, an Israeli official said that Hamas had turned down a proposed prisoner and hostage swap deal.
A Hamas official who was quoted by Israel Radio said that negotiations would only move forward once Israel releases hundreds of Palestinian prisoners re-arrested after having been freed in a deal to secure the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.
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