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Israeli authorities delay deal to return 2 Palestinian bodies

Feb. 9, 2016 9:07 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 19, 2016 10:24 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli authorities on Tuesday announced that the body of a Palestinian who was shot dead after allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli police officer would not be released at midnight, as promised, a lawyer with prisoners' rights group Addameer said.

Muhammad Mahmoud initially announced on Sunday that the body of Musab Ghazali would be released at midnight on Tuesday, while the remains of another Palestinian, Ahmad Abu Shaaban, would be released on Monday at midnight.

However, Israeli forces reneged on both deals without providing future dates for the release of the two bodies.

"Israeli intelligence has made it a policy to delay the return of bodies, from time-to-time, despite the fact that the families agreed upon the conditions of release," Mahmoud said.

Israeli authorities initially agreed to release the two remains under strict conditions. Mahmoud said Israeli forces stipulated that only 50 people were to attend the two funerals and to guarantee Israel's terms would be followed, each family was required to pay 20,000 shekels ($5,150) as collateral.

Mahmoud said both families accepted the terms and were awaiting their sons' remains.

Abu Shaaban was shot dead by Israeli border police on On Oct. 14, after he reportedly attempted to board an Egged bus after stabbing a 70-year-old woman in a bus station.

On Dec. 26, Ghazali was killed after allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli police officer in Jerusalem.

Ghazali was reportedly sitting in a park by the New Gate in the Old City when he followed a Jewish couple towards Allenby Square. The man’s movement "aroused suspicion" from Israeli police officers who approached him, mounted on horses, an Israeli police spokesperson said at the time.

A “hand fight” then broke out between the Palestinian and an officer who asked him for identification before the man pulled a knife on the officer, the spokesperson said. The Palestinian fell to the ground after officers opened fire, and was shot dead after getting up a second time, the spokesperson added.

During the latest bout of upheaval, Israeli authorities have made it practice to detain the bodies of Palestinians shot dead after alleged, attempted and actual attacks against Israeli civilians and military.

Late last month, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat called on the Middle East Quartet to pressure Israel to return the bodies of alleged Palestinian attackers still being held by the Israeli authorities.

The call was made in an open letter sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"I call upon you to instantly take action and exert diplomatic and political pressures on Israel to immediately release bodies of Palestinian martyrs killed by Israeli forces and settlers," Erekat wrote.

He said that withholding the bodies of Palestinians was a form of "collective punishment" by Israel against the Palestinian people, which he described as illegal under international law.
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