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Lawyer: Israel to hand over bodies of Jerusalem Palestinians

Dec. 19, 2015 1:46 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 20, 2015 12:07 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities are expected to hand over the bodies of Palestinians from Jerusalem that were killed during attacks on Israeli military and civilians in recent months, a lawyer for a prisoners’ rights group said.

Muhammad Mahmoud, lawyer for prisoners’ rights group Addameer, told Ma’an that he met with Israeli intelligence officials in the Russian Compound police station in West Jerusalem who said that “positive news” could come regarding the return of the bodies.

The officials did not specify at which time the bodies might be returned to their families, or how many would be turned over.

The bodies of 13 Palestinians -- including 4 minors -- shot dead in Jerusalem since Oct. 8 were withheld after Israel’s security cabinet announced that bodies of Palestinians killed after carrying out attacks on Israelis would no longer be returned to their families.

The decision was made on Oct. 13 in order to stem protests that frequently accompany the funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, a spokesperson for Israel's Public Security Ministry said at the time.

It was proposed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who reportedly said during the cabinet meeting that Palestinian families incite "terrorist attacks" at funerals, raising tensions.

The return of bodies has since been determined by Israeli officials on a case-by-case basis, and many have yet to be turned over.

The 13 bodies of Jerusalemite Palestinians are among dozens of bodies that have yet to be returned, recently sparking protests across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Mahmoud told Ma’an that he, together with lawyers Tareq Barghouth and Midhat Dibeh, had sent 80 letters to the Israeli Minister of Internal Security, a legal adviser of the Israeli police, as well as to Israeli intelligence regarding the return.

The three also presented 10 appeals to the public prosecution and have had daily contact with the police demanding the handover of the bodies, Mahmoud added.

Mahmoud said that the group of lawyers had so far decided not to approach the Israeli Supreme Court on the matter out of fear that the judges would “find a law that would create a judicial precedent to bury martyrs with blue ID cards [Israeli identification] in numbers cemeteries.”

Israel has for decades buried Palestinians who died during attacks on Israelis in “numbers cemeteries,” also referred to as “cemeteries for the enemy dead.”

Around 262 bodies are believed to be be buried inside of Israel in nameless graves marked with numbers, not including 19 bodies of Palestinians which were buried inside of Israel during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as those held since October of this year.
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