The Israeli prime minister's office announced the decision January 1, a day after Hamas's release of a video showing a mock birthday party for missing Israeli soldier Oron Shaul. Israel believes Shaul and another soldier, Hadar Goldin, were killed in the 2014 Gaza war and that Hamas is holding their remains. They also believe Hamas to be holding two Israeli civilians who crossed into Gaza on their own.
Both Hamas and the parents of the Israeli soldiers have criticized the move.
"We won't give a medal to those who decide to do too little too late," the Goldins said in a statement, the Times of Israel reports. They pointed out that it is the responsibility of the prime minister to enforce any new means of leverage against Hamas, and called for "stronger and more stringent" steps against the group.
Hamas, meanwhile, called the decision "evidence of criminality and barbaric occupation" by Israel through spokesman Fawzi Barhum.
"These decisions will not give positive results," he said, Deutsche Welle reports. He would not say what actions the group might take in responses.
The videos posted by Hamas's military arm, the Al-Qassam Brigades, marked three years of "captivity" for the soldiers. In one of them, an obviously doctored image of Shaul sits in front of a birthday cake; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dressed as a clown, enters the room. The video ends with the message, "The decision is in the government's hands," according to the Times of Israel.
In the other, a group of faceless captured soldiers bang tin plates as voices sing "Happy Birthday."
According to its army, Israel returned 102 bodies to Hamas for burial in 2016. Now, any bodies its army captures will be buried immediately, but may be exhumed and returned if Hamas agrees to deals. Israel has in the past buried the bodies of its enemy's fallen in secret, remote locations.
In September, Hamas denied rejecting an Israeli offer to return 19 bodies from the 2014 conflict and free 18 Palestinians in exchange for Shaul and Goldin's remains.