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Israel still holding 9 Palestinians' bodies, say rights groups

March 1, 2016 3:40 P.M. (Updated: March 2, 2016 10:10 A.M.)
A funeral procession in Aida refugee camp, Oct. 6 2015. (MaanImages/Emily Mulder, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel is continuing to withhold the bodies of nine Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces after allegedly carrying out attacks, human rights groups Addameer and Adalah said Tuesday, in what they called "a severe violation of international humanitarian law."

In a joint statement, the Palestinian Addameer and Israeli Adalah condemned the Israeli authorities for "the continued withholding of the bodies of nine deceased Palestinians, the longest of which has been held by Israel for over four months."

The groups said it was "a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture."

They added: "The withholding of the bodies also greatly adds to the grief, anxiety and trauma of the families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, and who are also being denied their cultural and religious rights to mourn and to bury them in accordance with their faith."

The two rights groups branded the practice "collective punishment" of the families. According to Islamic rites, the deceased should be buried before the next sunset following a death.

The groups also said Israel's practice of withholding bodies "obstructs the possibility of conducting an investigation concerning the circumstances of the alleged extrajudicial executions and a proper autopsy"

The statement said it appeared "many" of the Palestinians whose bodies Israel was holding had been "extra-judicially executed by Israeli forces during alleged attacks against Israelis, despite posing no danger."

Addameer and Adalah released the statement a day after Israel released the body of 26-year-old Mosab al-Ghazali to his family -- 65 days after he was shot dead by Israeli forces following an alleged stabbing attempt in Jerusalem.

Addameer's Jerusalem lawyer Mohammad Mahmoud accused Israel of having breached the conditions of Ghazali's release, returning his body completely frozen.

Israel also released Ghazali's body nearly three weeks after the date they first agreed to release it on, in a move they never explained to his family, Mahmoud said.

Addameer and Adalah called on the UN, the EU, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to "intervene and pressure the Israeli authorities to immediately release the bodies of Palestinians that are still being withheld."

They identified the Palestinians whose bodies are still being held as Thaer Abu Ghazaleh, Hasan Manasrah, Baha Alayan, Alaa Abu Jamal, Mutaz Eiwaisat, Mohammad Nimer, Omar Iskafi, Abed al-Muhsen Hassouneh, and Mohammad Abu Khalaf.
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