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Palestinian buried after body withheld by Israeli authorities for 65 days

Feb. 29, 2016 10:43 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 29, 2016 9:26 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli intelligence handed over the body of Musab Mahmoud al-Ghazali to his family for him to be buried on Sunday night, 65 days after he was killed by Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem.

Al-Ghazali, a 26-year-old Palestinian from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, was shot dead on Dec. 26 after Israeli police say he pulled a knife on an officer in Allenby Square in Jerusalem.

However, a witness on the scene said that al-Ghazali had not been holding a knife when he was killed.

Al-Ghazali’s family said at the time that the young man suffered from mental disabilities, and denied that he would have carried out an attack. They accused Israeli forces of "executing him in cold blood."

Al-Ghazali’s body was returned to its family entirely covered in ice due to being kept refrigerated in Israeli custody.

“The family committed to the conditions but Israel did not,” al-Ghazali’s uncle, Majd al-Ghazali, told Ma’an. “The family asked for them to take the body out of the morgue 24 to 48 hours before handing over the body so the ice would melt, but we were shocked that the ice was still on Musab’s body.”

A lawyer for prisoners rights organization Addameer said only 30 people were allowed to attend al-Ghazali’s funeral, which was held with Israeli police and army forces deployed in the area.

Al-Ghazali’s sister, 22-year-old Rawan, was prevented from attending the funeral, as her name was allegedly not mentioned in the list of people allowed to be at the funeral.

“Israel is using the chaos as an excuse that is why they handed him over after midnight, with a list with only 30 attending,” al-Ghazali’s uncle said.

Israeli authorities also prevented any video recording or photography of the body, and seized the cell phones of people attending the funeral, the lawyer added.

Israeli authorities had announced that they would release al-Ghazali’s body three weeks earlier, on Feb. 6.

Al-Ghazali’s family had to comply with strict conditions regarding the time and size of the funeral, as well pay 20,000 shekels ($5,150) as collateral, before Israel released the body. Similar preconditions have been set on the families of other Palestinians whose relatives’ bodies were held by Israeli authorities.

Since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory at the beginning of October, Israel has routinely held the bodies of Palestinians it says were attempting to attack Israelis.

Israel's Public Security Ministry said in mid-October that the bodies of alleged Palestinians attackers would no longer be returned to their families and would instead by buried in "secret."

A spokesperson for the ministry said at the time the decision was made in order to stem protests that frequently accompany the funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

However, Israel's withholding of bodies has only further stoked tensions in the occupied Palestinian territory, and Israeli authorities have since returned many of them of them to their families, on what they refer to as a "case-by-case" basis.

In January, 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.

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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