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Israel hands over 23 bodies of Palestinians slain during attacks

Jan. 1, 2016 7:53 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 1, 2016 8:05 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities on Friday handed over the bodies of 23 Palestinians killed while suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis, Palestinian officials said.

Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances caravanned into the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron carrying 17 of the bodies, which were delivered to hundreds of Palestinians awaiting the handover.

The 17 were transferred from Israeli to Palestinian authorities at the Tarqumiya crossing before being taken to Hebron’s al-Ahli hospital, where the bodies were received by Palestinian officials and relatives.

Palestinian National Security forces payed tribute to the bodies before they were transferred to the hospital morgue where they await autopsy. The bodies are expected to be buried on Saturday.

Following the delivery, chief prosecutor of the Hebron area, Ashraf Mashaal, told Ma’an that a team of prosecutors had been formed in order to determine the ultimate causes of death for the Palestinians killed, adding that the decision had been approved by relatives of the slain.

Hebron Governor Kamel Hamid said: "This is the day in which we feel some satisfaction that we are able to welcome the bodies of our children after such prolonged suffering, suffering by the families of the martyrs because of these unprecedented Israeli measures.”

Three bodies of Palestinians from the Ramallah area were also turned over by Israeli authorities near the Ofer detention camp.

Israeli authorities handed over the body of Mohammad Muneer Salih Hassan, 24, from the village of Arura, who was shot dead after opening fire on an Israeli military patrol north of Ramallah on Nov. 19.

The bodies of Anas Bassam Hammad and Muhammad Abd al-Rahman Ayyad, both 20 years old from the village of Silwad were also handed over.

Hamad was shot and killed after running his vehicle into Israeli soldiers on Dec. 7, injuring two, while Ayyad was killed after allegedly carrying out a vehicle attack in Silwad that caused no injuries.

Amid a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territories in October, Israel’s security cabinet passed a decision to withhold the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.

Since October, the Israeli authorities have withheld the bodies of over 80 Palestinians for various periods of time, according to the UN Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.

The policy has not been carried out with such frequency since the Second Intifada and has sparked major backlash among Palestinian communities, who began staging demonstrations demanding the bodies be returned.

During a Knesset meeting on Nov. 5, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that “holding onto bodies is in itself not a deterrent to potential terrorists,” announcing that bodies would be returned on a “case-by-case basis.”

Bodies have since been handed over conditionally, with Israeli authorities demanding the bodies be buried immediately following their handover and that funerals be limited in attendance.

The conditional returns have raised controversy due to the difficulty posed for carrying out autopsies prior to the immediate burials.

The Palestinian Ministry of Justice has reportedly adopted a resolution to perform autopsies on the bodies of all Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in effort to document “Israeli crimes.”

Sabir al-Aloul, a coroner responsible for performing autopsies on a number of slain Palestinian and head of Al-Quds University's Institute for Forensic Medicine, told Ma’an Thursday that Israel has returned several bodies fully frozen, making immediate autopsies before burial impossible.

No information was given regarding the conditional returns of the 23 bodies returned Friday.

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