Israel has announced it will not return the bodies of dead Palestinian fighters until Hamas returns four Israeli nationals.

The Israeli security cabinet, made up of four senior ministers, said on 1 January this would be the country's new policy for dealing with the bodies of militants in future. The bodies would be buried in Israel, and would only be exhumed and returned for burial if Hamas was willing to strike deals.

Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, claims to have captured two Israeli soldiers, not confirming whether dead or alive, who Israel first considered dead in the 2014 Gaza war. The group also said it had detained two Israeli civilians who strayed into Gaza.

"The security cabinet discussed ways to effect the return of fallen soldiers and of civilians held in the Gaza Strip... and decided that [the bodies of militants] should be buried, rather than returned," the statement said.

Israeli officials have reportedly indicated they are willing to repeat past amnesties of detained Palestinians to recover the soldiers and civilians held by Hamas. Hamas instead wants Israel to release prisoners before agreeing to discuss a deal. Israeli media reported that Hamas considered the security cabinet decisions as "vindictive and barbaric". It warned in a statement: "These decisions will not give positive results".

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A Palestinian boy places a Hamas flag atop the rubble of a house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike during the 2014 Gaza war. Reuters