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Israeli court orders release of 9 withheld Palestinian bodies before Ramadan

May 5, 2016 3:50 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2016 4:30 P.M.)
Palestinian mourners carry the body of Mahmoud Shalaldeh, 18, killed Israeli troops during clashes in Hebron, during his funeral on Nov. 13, 2015 (AFP/Hazem Bader, File)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Supreme Court ordered on Thursday the release of the bodies of nine Palestinian from Jerusalem currently being withheld by Israel, after family members appealed the court.

Mohammed Mahmoud, a lawyer with Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, told Ma’an that although the Supreme Court did not set a precise date for the bodies to be returned to their families, they were expected to be released before Ramadan, in June.

Israel currently holds the bodies of at least 19 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since October while they were allegedly committing or attempting to commit attacks.

Israel dramatically increased its policy of withholding bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory since October, although it has scaled back on the policy in recent months.

Mahmoud and fellow Addameer lawyer Suhad Beshara, acting as legal representatives for the families of the deceased Palestinians held by the Israeli government, had previously submitted an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding a date for the release of the bodies.

Mahmoud said he received a reply from the Israeli public prosecution on Tuesday stating that the Israeli Public Security Ministry had accepted Israeli police recommendations to release the bodies.

The bodies of Muhammad Abd Nimr, 37, Abd al-Muhsen Hassouneh, 21, and Hassan Manasra, 15, were set to be released first, Mahmoud said, since their families had previously signed agreements with Israeli intelligence to release the bodies. The rest are expected to follow.

The Supreme Court additionally ordered that the bodies of deceased Palestinians be taken out of refrigeration 48 hours prior to their transfer, and that their families be informed in advance in order to carry out a proper burial.

The Israeli Supreme Court vice president requested that Knesset Member Osama Saadi, from the Arab Joint List, be informed of the process to guarantee that the bodies will be released before the start of Ramadan.

Saadi, who is a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, said that he would ensure that efforts were continuously made to release and bury all Palestinian bodies held by Israel, adding that the Israeli policy of “detaining dead bodies of martyrs for months in refrigerators is a rejected practice and forbidden by all religions and international law, especially for a country that claims to be a democracy.”

A joint statement released in early April by Addameer and the Israeli minority rights group Adalah condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as "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."

Israeli authorities are withholding the bodies of at least 19 Palestinians killed during the recent escalation of violence, including those identified by as Thaer Abu Ghazaleh, 19, Alaa Abu Jamal, 22, Bahaa Elayyan, 22, Mutaz Ahmad Eweisat, 16, Mohamad Abu Khalaf, 20, Fadwa Abu Tair, 51, Fouad Abu Rajab, 21, Abd al-Malek Abu Kharroub, 19, and Mohamad Kalouti, 21.

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