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Israel returns body of Bedouin Palestinian accused of killing soldier

Dec. 20, 2015 11:17 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 20, 2015 3:56 P.M.)
HURA, Israel (Ma’an) -- Israel on Saturday evening returned the body of a Bedouin Palestinian accused of killing an Israeli soldier in the Beersheba central bus station in October, relatives said.

Muhannad al-Oqbi, 21, from the Bedouin village of Hura, was shot dead on Oct. 18 after killing Israeli soldier Omar Levi and injuring at least nine others, according to Israeli police.

Al-Oqbi’s body was withheld from his family by Israeli authorities in line with a Israeli security cabinet decision not to return the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.

After over 60 days, Israeli police handed over the body around 10:00 p.m. on the condition that no more than 50 attendees participate in al-Oqbi’s funeral, Anwar al-Oqbi, a relative of Muhannad told Ma’an.

Anwar said that police had cautioned the family that if they failed to comply with the conditions, the body would be taken back by Israeli authorities.

Dozens of bodies of Palestinians are still being held and returned on a case-by-case basis, sparking outcry from Palestinian families, communities, and rights groups who say the practice is unlawful collective punishment.

Al-Oqbi was buried in al-Suqati cemetery in the Negev, and several relatives were not able to attend his funeral due to the Israeli restriction, Anwar added.

Bedouin member of Knesset -- Israel’s parliament -- repeatedly called for the release of al-Oqbi’s body last month, arguing that video evidence of the attack did not prove the young man’s involvement.

The Beersheba attack was one of several to take place in October, marking a wave of attacks by Palestinian individuals on Israeli military and civilians that has continued through December.

The attack gained international attention after an Eritrean asylum seeker, Haftom Zarhum, was mistaken as the assailant and shot by an Israeli security guard before being attacked by a violent mob.

Prior to the incident, Israeli officials had publicly applauded both Israeli forces and civilians for quick responses to recent attacks, and encouraged civilians to carry weapons in readiness for future attacks.

The move received backlash from rights groups and members of the Israeli left who argued the government was paving the way for unnecessary deaths and racial profiling.

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