Middle East Monitor / July 13, 2021
Following the end of the latest Israeli offensive on Gaza in May, the Israeli occupation stressed that rebuilding and developing the war-torn enclave would not happen before releasing Israeli prisoners held by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza.
“Operation Guardian of the Walls ended, but it has not finished,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz asserted.
“Hamas terror group in Gaza needs to understand: We are determined. If Hamas wants reconstruction and economic development, the time has come that it takes concrete steps to maintain the calm, to halt the rearmament and to return the boys (the Israeli prisoners in Gaza) home,” he stressed.
Similar remarks were delivered by senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
The latest meeting of the Israeli cabinet, which was held on Sunday, discussed Gaza and the release of Israeli prisoners. The statement issued after the meeting did not mention easing the Israeli siege on Gaza nor the release of the prisoners.
However, the next day, Israeli authorities declared several steps towards easing the siege on Gaza without any introductions except that these steps came in response to the ongoing calm on the southern front.
On Tuesday, an Israeli radio station revealed that the issue of the prisoners was discussed, but no final decision was taken on the issue.
The Israeli Army stated that Israel has shown too much leniency regarding the reconstruction of Gaza and that it should not link it to the release of Israeli prisoners and lost soldiers held by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza.
According to Israeli radio, the issue of the prisoners will remain a priority that must be resolved, stressing that this issue could not be resolved without freeing Palestinian prisoners.
“I have no doubt that Israel will agree on improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev was reported as saying by Israeli radio, without mentioning the issue of the Israeli prisoners in Gaza.
Meanwhile, Reservist Major General Giora Eiland, the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, indicated: “There are issues that should be carried out because it is impossible to create an unbearable situation in Gaza.”
He added: “On the other hand, linking the issue of rebuilding Gaza with the release of prisoners is correct, and we hope to stick to it, but whoever thinks that we can take back our soldiers without paying a price, he does not know what is he talking about.”