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Israeli Defense Minister halts return of Palestinian bodies following Tel Aviv attack

June 9, 2016 8:26 P.M. (Updated: June 10, 2016 11:41 A.M.)
Palestinians carry the body of Mohammed Kasba, a 17-year old Palestinian who was killed by Israeli soldiers after he threw stones at their patrol close to the Qalandiya checkpoint, during his funeral procession on July 3, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Newly-appointed Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued an order on Thursday to suspend the return of all Palestinian bodies killed during suspected attacks in response to a shooting in Tel Aviv on Wednesday that left four Israelis killed and an additional six injured.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the ultra-right politician issued the order following a security cabinet meeting to discuss government responses to Wednesday’s attack.

Lieberman’s decision split with his predecessor Moshe Yaalon, who argued against withholding Palestinian bodies, saying the policy has only served to exacerbate tensions with Palestinians.

However, Lieberman claimed the return of bodies had sent the “wrong message” to Palestinians, and that halting their return could prevent future attacks against Israelis.

The decision comes a day after Israeli police announced that slain Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem suspected of “terrorism” would no longer be able to have funerals in their neighborhoods or villages, but would instead be buried in cemeteries chosen by the Israeli police.

Israeli authorities have claimed funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces following alleged attacks had provided grounds for “incitement” against the Israeli state.

In May, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the release of all Jerusalemite Palestinian bodies withheld by Israel before the start of Ramadan. However, Israeli authorities continue to hold at least a dozen Palestinian bodies in refrigerated conditions in Israel.

A joint statement released in early April by Addameer and 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 move is the latest of a succession of punitive measures that have been carried out on Palestinians in the wake of the attack in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which implements Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, also issued an order on Thursday freezing more than 83,000 permits allowing Palestinians to enter Israel and occupied East Jerusalem.

COGAT was also instructed to freeze the work permits of 204 of the suspected attackers’ relatives who are dependent on entering Israel for work.

Meanwhile, a large-scale raid was carried out in the alleged attackers’ hometown of Yatta in the occupied West Bank district of Hebron in the early morning hours on Thursday, as Israeli forces detained an unspecified number of people.

The town has been completely sealed by Israeli forces, with no Palestinians allowed to leave with the exception of humanitarian or medical cases.

Numerous rights groups have highlighted that Israel's punitive policies against Palestinians, such as punitive home demolitions, sealing off the hometowns of attackers by military closures, withholding slain Palestinian bodies, and revoking work permits, constitutes a form of collective punishment, and represent a clear violation of international law.
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