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Israeli minister orders suspension of return of Palestinian bodies

May 24, 2016 3:58 P.M. (Updated: May 25, 2016 11:58 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan announced on Tuesday that he had ordered Israeli police to suspend the return of bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, after seeing footage of a crowd gathering outside the funeral of one such slain Palestinians earlier during the day.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri reported on Tuesday that Erdan had watched footage of the funeral of “terrorist” Alaa Abu Jamal in occupied East Jerusalem, which prompted “anger, disapproval and condemnation.”

Abu Jamal, 22, was killed by Israeli police on October 13, after he rammed his car into a bus stop in West Jerusalem, killing one Israeli and injuring four others.

More than seven months later, Israeli authorities released his body for burial on Tuesday morning, on the condition that his family pay a 40,000 shekel ($10,353.30) deposit and that only 40 people attend the funeral.

However, Israeli forces held Abu Jamal’s body at the Oz police station for two hours due to the large number of people around the cemetery, amid heavy deployment of Israeli security forces.

The Palestinian bystanders chanted “God is great,” a phrase used regularly during Muslim funerals, as well as “with our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, martyr,” a variation on a popular Arabic political slogan.

Erdan accused the crowd of “incitement,” calling the scene "inadmissible by all standards and measurements everywhere, the more so in the capital Jerusalem."

Israel refers to Jerusalem as its "united" capital and annexed the city in 1981 in a move that was never recognized by the international community.

A spokesperson for Erdan did not immediately respond to Ma’an’s request for comment.

Israel currently holds the bodies of at least a dozen Palestinians, including six Jerusalemites, killed by Israeli forces since October while they were allegedly committing or attempting to commit attacks.

Earlier this month, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the release of the bodies of nine Palestinian from Jerusalem being withheld by Israel. Three have already been released, although it remained unclear on Tuesday whether Erdan’s order would supercede the court ruling.

More than 200 Palestinians and almost 30 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October.

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.

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."

In recent months, Israel has accused numerous Palestinians of “incitement,” alleging that it was behind a number of alleged attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli military targets and settlers.

Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.
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