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Israel returns bodies of 7 slain Palestinians from Ramallah

Dec. 31, 2015 5:52 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2016 11:00 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israel on Thursday released seven bodies of Palestinians who were shot dead during alleged, attempted or actual attacks on Israeli military and civilians, the Palestinian liaison office said.

Israeli authorities originally announced that 11 bodies would be released, but decided last-minute to hold four of those set to be released for "security reasons."

The seven bodies were released to their families in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah after 4 p.m.

The Palestinian Civil Defense said that the bodies of Suleiman Shahin, Ghassan Hammad, Issa Assaf, Wissam Abu Ghweileh, brothers Fadi and Shadi al-Khasib and Ahmad Taha were released.

On Wednesday, a number of Palestinian families came together and signed a letter which stated their refusal to comply with Israel's conditions of release concerning the bodies of their loved ones.

Israeli authorities have demanded that families of slain Palestinians agree to bury their dead at night, immediately after release of the remains.

The letter, which was published on social media, stressed the "natural and legal right" of the families to be granted the remains of their loved ones and bury their dead in an appropriate religious and cultural manner.

Families said burying their dead at night not only goes against traditions, it also prevents many family members from being able to pay their last respects by attending the funerals.

The signatories also pointed out that each family should be allotted time to request an official autopsy on their dead, particularly due to rumors that Israeli authorities have been removing certain organs before releasing remains.

Earlier on Thursday, the Head of Al-Quds University's Institute for Forensic Medicine, Sabir al-Aloul, told Ma’an that the demand by Israeli authorities that Palestinian bodies be buried immediately after their return prevents autopsies from being carried out.

“Israel freezes the bodies of the Palestinian martyrs in mortuaries held at -35 degrees which prevents autopsy for 24 to 48 hours,” al-Aloul said.

Al-Aloul added that Israeli conditions also prevented autopsies that would resolve accusations that Israel has been “stealing” organs from the bodies of Palestinians withheld by the state.

The coroner also reported that a number of the bodies he has received from Israeli custody appeared to be returned in poor condition.

Israeli authorities began holding the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israeli military or civilians in October. The practice has not been used with such frequency since the Second Intifada, according to rights group Hamoked.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Nov. 5 that bodies would begin to be returned on a “case-by-case basis, where the main consideration is if there`ll be a massive funeral.”

Palestinians killed by Israelis are considered marytrs in Palestinian culture, and the funerals for those slain are generally politically charged and end in clashes with Israeli forces, however several bodies have been handed over since Yaalon's statement.

A spokesperson for Israel's Ministry of Defense was not immediately available for comment regarding the return of frozen bodies.




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