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After months, Israel returns bodies of Palestinian woman, teenage boy to their families

May 17, 2016 11:36 A.M. (Updated: May 17, 2016 9:37 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces on Monday night returned the bodies of a Palestinian woman and a teenage boy from occupied East Jerusalem to their families for burial, after withholding the bodies for months.

Israeli forces deployed heavily in the Um Tuba neighborhood of East Jerusalem before intelligence officers handed over the body of 51-year-old Fadwa Abu Teir to her family in front of the neighborhood’s mosque.

Abu Teir was shot and killed on March 8 in the Old City of Jerusalem after she allegedly attempted to stab Israeli officers. No Israelis were injured in the case.

A Palestinian Red Crescent doctor told Ma'an at the time that Israeli forces prevented medics from reaching Abu Teir at the scene, wasting “critical time during which the woman could have been rescued."

Family members wrapped Abu Teir in a shroud and performed funeral prayer in the mosque, before a small number of mourners, as stipulated by Israeli intelligence, carried her body and marched to the neighborhood’s cemetery where she was laid to rest.

“Her body was detained for seventy days, which was very hard on the family,” Abu Teir’s son Muhammad told Ma’an.

After Abu Teir’s burial, Israeli forces returned the body of Muataz Ahmad Uweisat, a 16-year-old teenager from the neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, to his family after midnight.

Uweisat was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Oct. 17 after allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli policeman in the illegal settlement of East Talpiot. No Israelis were hurt in the case.

Uweisat’s body was buried in the Bab al-Rahmah cemetery outside of the eastern wall of the Old City.

Lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud from Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, who was present when Israeli forces returned both bodies, said Israeli intelligence stipulated that Abu Teir be buried in Um Tuba and Uweisat in Jabal al-Mukabbir immediately after the bodies were returned.

Abu Teir’s son confirmed to Ma’an that Israeli intelligence had imposed a number of preconditions before returning Abu Teir’s body. In addition to limiting the number of people allowed to attend the funeral, mourners were forbidden from chanting “Allah Akbar” (God is greater). Abu Teir’s family was also made to pay bail to guarantee that they would stick to Israeli authorities’ demands.

Mahmoud said Abu Teir and Uweisat’s families had to pay 20,000 shekels each ($5,241.50) before the bodies were released, and added that only 45 people were allowed to attend each funeral.

Israeli intelligence is still withholding the bodies of at least 17 Palestinians who have been killed since October.

Israel dramatically increased its policy of holding bodies of Palestinians killed while allegedly carrying out attacks or attempting to carry out attacks when unrest increased in October, but began reversing the policy following uproar from Palestinian families and communities.

Earlier this month, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the bodies of nine Palestinians be returned to their families before the Muslim holiday of Ramadan in June.

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat urged the international community in March to pressure Israel to release the bodies of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces while allegedly carrying out attacks.

He said: "Israel's collective punishments are now being carried out against the living and the dead."

A joint statement released by Addameer and Israeli minority rights group Adalah in March 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."

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

Abu Teir and Uweisat are among more than 200 Palestinians who have been killed since a wave of unrest began in October, the majority of whom were shot during alleged attacks or attempted attacks on Israeli military targets. Nearly 30 Israelis have been killed during the same time period.

The circumstances of a number of Palestinian deaths have been disputed, with investigations by rights groups reporting several Palestinians who were fatally shot did not pose sufficient threat at the time of their death to warrant use of lethal violence.

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