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Israel returns body of Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif after being held for 2 months

May 27, 2016 11:02 P.M. (Updated: May 29, 2016 11:36 A.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Friday evening released the body of Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, the Palestinian whose cold-blooded killing by an Israeli soldier in March was caught on film, sparking international outrage.

The Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee said al-Sharif’s body was returned and taken to Hebron’s al-Ahli hospital.

Al-Sharif's family told Ma'an his funeral would be held on Saturday afternoon, and that they have rejected all Israeli authorities’ conditions for the release of his body.

Al-Sharif was shot alongside Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi after the two allegedly stabbed and moderately wounded an Israeli soldier at a military checkpoint in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron on March 24.

Al-Qasrawi was killed immediately, while al-Sharif was left severely wounded for several minutes without treatment, before an Israeli soldier stepped forward and put a bullet through his head, killing him.

A graphic video released by B’Tselem capturing the incident was met with wide condemnation from rights groups and international bodies, with the UN demanding an investigation into the soldier's apparent "extrajudicial execution."

A funeral was held for al-Qasrawi after his body was returned days after the incident, while Israeli authorities continued to hold al-Sharif, with his family demanding that a Palestinian coroner partake in the autopsy.

Israel's top court subsequently refused the demand, though permitted a Palestinian doctor to observe the autopsy. The autopsy, performed by an Israeli coroner, confirmed that al-Sharif was still alive before he was shot at point-blank range.

Following the autopsy, al-Sharif’s family said they would file legal procedures against the Israeli army in front of an Israeli court.

Elor Azarya, the Israeli soldier who killed al-Sharif, was later charged with manslaughter rather than murder as had been expected. Azarya is being held on a military base in “open detention” where he is free to roam and has received visits from his family. His trial opened earlier this month.

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 Palestinian, chanting slogans such as “God is great," which Erdan deemed to qualify as “incitement.”

However earlier on Friday, and in spite of the order, Israeli authorities also returned the body of a 17-year-old Palestinian girl shot dead by Israeli forces during an alleged stab attack on Monday. A spokesperson for the Israeli ministry of public security was not available for immediate comment on reasons for Sawsan Daoud Ali Mansour's and al-Sharif's bodies being returned during the suspension, or if the suspension had been removed.

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."

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."

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

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