Israeli officials are reportedly engaged in negotiations with Palestinian counterparts over the potential development of natural gas fields off the Gaza coast.
The discussions are being spearheaded by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian—the IDF’s liaison to the Palestinians—with the approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Channel 13.
Following the latter summit, the parties released a joint communique that included a promise to “take the necessary steps towards improving the economic conditions of the Palestinian people,” to “significantly enhance the fiscal situation of the Palestinian National Authority.”
The issue has been intermittently discussed over the years, and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, a day before the latest Nov. 1 election, approved a preliminary deal between Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian officials to tap the resources.
In an interview with Channel 13, Hanegbi confirmed his involvement in the talks, but emphasized that “there will be nothing concerning infrastructure development” in Gaza until Hamas returns the bodies of IDF soldiers Oren Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in Gaza during the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.
Hamas is also currently holding hostage Israelis Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, both of whom suffer from mental illness and crossed into Gaza on their own accord nearly a decade ago.
“We can talk and plan, so [the Palestinians] understand the cost of the loss. It’s not only the matter of gas, there is infrastructure the whole world is ready to bolster in Gaza. We won’t allow this until the boys are returned,” said Hanegbi.
Last Wednesday, Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza reached a ceasefire agreement, following a major conflagration in which more than 100 rockets were launched towards the Jewish state in under 24 hours.
In April, terrorists in Gaza fired 44 projectiles, including rockets and anti-aircraft missiles, towards southern Israel, a day after Hamas launched 34 rockets from Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon.