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Israel agrees to return 7 detained bodies of Palestinians slain during recent unrest

June 13, 2016 6:26 P.M. (Updated: June 15, 2016 4:31 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli minister of public security and the Israeli general prosecution agreed on Monday to return seven detained bodies of Palestinians to their families, but have yet to confirm a deadline for their release.

Lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud, who works with the prisoners' rights group Addameer told Ma’an that he received a “positive answer” to a petition he submitted to an Israeli court asking for the return of bodies of Palestinians who were killed while allegedly committing or attempting to commit attacks.

Mahmoud stressed that the answer he received from Israeli prosecution did not set a deadline for returning the bodies “which have been kept in morgues for several months.” This ambiguity in the answer, he said, was meant to “mislead the court.”

Six of the Palestinians were from occupied East Jerusalem and the seventh, Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour, was from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank.

According to Mahmoud, the answer stated that after examining the situation, the Israeli minister of public security agreed to return the bodies included in the petition to their families in accordance with the terms set by Israeli police.

The terms include, among others, that a limited number of people join the funeral, families deposit an amount of money to guarantee that they will adhere with police stipulations, and that the burial must be at night and immediately after the family receives the body.

Mahmoud highlighted the Israeli authorities' recent decision that Israeli police have the right to determine which cemetery the body will be buried in, and where the funeral will take place. Israeli police claimed that the new term was added to enable police to contain alleged "incitement" at Palestinian funerals held for alleged attackers.

An Israeli army spokesperson said she was looking into reports.

The news of the impending return of the seven bodies comes amidst a constant back and forth in recent weeks, regarding decisions to hold bodies of suspected Palestinian attackers.

Newly-appointed Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued an order on June 9 to suspend the return of all Palestinian bodies killed during suspected attacks in response to a shooting in Tel Aviv on June 8 that left four Israelis killed and an additional six injured.

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.

Lieberman’s decision came 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 repeatedly 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.

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