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Israel refuses to release bodies of Palestinians killed in Gaza tunnel blast

Procession and funeral for the seven Palestinians killed in an Israeli attack on a tunnel in the Gaza Strip on 30 October 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday refused to return the bodies of the five Palestinians who were found by the Israeli army after the Gaza-border tunnel attack last week.

"The government has two major goals. The first is to protect the country, and the second is to build up the country." Netanyahu said, as quoted by Israel's Arutz Sheva

"We're working on both simultaneously. We're defending our country with a simple rule – we attack whoever attacks us and the second [rule] is that we're not going to give something for nothing," he added.

Referring to the two slain soldiers held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu stressed that Israel will return its held civilians to their families. "We will bring our boys home, but I repeat: there are no free gifts," he reiterated.

Read More: Israel using missing Palestinians in tunnel attack to bargain with Hamas

On Monday, Gaza health ministry announced the killing of seven Palestinians and the injury of 12 others in a tunnel explosion that was carried out by the Israeli forces in Gaza's southern area of Khan Yunis.

Israel claims that Hamas has been withholding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in the last Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014.

Hamas refuses to disclose any information about the held bodies until Israel releases the Palestinians who were arrested in 2014 after they were released in a prisoner exchange deal in 2011. "We will not provide any information in exchange for locating those missing," Hamas official, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, recently said.

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