By Zain Khali
JERUSALEM (AA) – Meeting with the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Monday, Israel’s defense minister expressed his country’s readiness to engage in talks with Palestinian group Hamas aimed at improving conditions in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
On Twitter, Benny Gantz expressed his gratitude to the UN’s Nikolai Mladenov “for helping facilitate the resumption of coordination with the Palestinian Authority,” and also to discuss what he called “Hamas’ violation of our sovereignty in the south.”
Gantz added that Israel is prepared “to arrive at a solution and contribute to improved conditions for the residents of Gaza” provided an understanding is reached that includes the release of Israeli soldiers detained by Hamas.
There was no immediate Hamas response to Gantz’s remarks.
Last week, Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh wrote on Twitter: “In light of the calls made by President [Mahmoud] Abbas regarding Israel's commitment to the bilateral signed agreements, & based on the official written and oral letters we received, confirming Israel's commitment to them. Accordingly, the relationship with Israel will return to how it was.”
The Gaza Strip suffers from an acute shortage of food and medical supplies plus extreme unemployment compounded by a severe electricity crisis as a result of the Israeli blockade imposed on it since 2007.
Hamas holds four Israeli prisoners, including two soldiers captured during the Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Hamas has demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in exchange for the Israelis.
*Ibrahim Mukhtar contributed to this report from Ankara.