Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has hinted that the government could basically lift the siege of Gaza if the remains of soldiers held by Hamas in the territory are returned, the Times of Israel has reported. Two civilians are also believed to be held by the Islamic Resistance Movement.
"We have no interests in Gaza other than total calm and the returning of the boys," Gantz told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. "We would be happy to see Gaza blossom, I would be happy to see workers coming out of the Gaza Strip. This can happen under one condition — that the boys are returned home. When this happens, we can open the Gaza Strip."
Gaza has been under a land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel and its allies since 2007. The UN and independent human rights organisations point out that the blockade has caused a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territory.
The blockade has been described by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as, "A denial of basic human rights in contravention of international law [amounting] to collective punishment."