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'We want our sons': Families of slain Palestinians held by Israel stage sit-in at Aqsa

June 24, 2016 10:25 P.M. (Updated: June 27, 2016 12:57 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Family members of slain Palestinians whose bodies are still being held by Israeli authorities staged a sit-in at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, demanding Israel return the bodies in a campaign titled: "We want our sons."

Participants in the sit-in raised posters emblazoned with the phrase: "We want the martyr --" with the name of each slain Palestinian and the date they were killed printed underneath.

Muhammed Elayyan, father of Bahaa Elayyan, a Palestinian shot dead during an alleged attack in October, said "we are here today to remind all worshipers who came to Al-Aqsa that the bodies of eight martyrs have been in (Israeli) refrigerators for months.”

“They were with us on days like these during the holy month of Ramadan (last year), and it their right to be buried according to traditions."

Of the eight bodies of Palestinians still being held by Israel, six were from occupied East Jerusalem, identified as: Thaer Abu Ghazaleh, 19, Bahaa Elayyan, 22, Abd al-Muhsin Hassuneh, 21, Mohammad Abu Khalaf, 20, Muhammad Jamal al-Kalouti, 21, and Abd al-Malek Salih Abu Kharoub, 19. Meanwhile, there bodies of Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour and Ansar Harashah from the occupied West Bank have also been withheld.

Their family members, including Muhammed Elayyan, staged a demonstration on Tuesday outside of Israel’s Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine in Jaffa, where the bodies have being stored, some for as long as eight months.

Israeli authorities dramatically escalated a policy of withholding Palestinian bodies killed by Israeli forces since a wave of unrest erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October, having repeatedly claimed that funerals of Palestinians had provided grounds for “incitement” against the Israeli state.

However, following an uproar of protest among Palestinians over the policy, Israeli authorities began rescinding the practice.

Following an attack in Tel Aviv earlier this month, newly appointed Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued an order to suspend the return of slain Palestinian bodies, claiming it had sent the “wrong message” to Palestinians, and that halting their return could prevent future attacks against Israelis.

Despite this, however, Israeli authorities agreed to return several Palestinian bodies to their families within the same week of Lieberman’s order, although an exact date for their return has yet to be confirmed.

When Israeli authorities have decided to return slain bodies and allow funerals in the occupied Palestinian territory, the ceremonies have been typically restricted by a long list of conditions imposed by Israeli authorities, including limiting the number of attendees and the deployment of Israeli soldiers throughout the event.

Palestinian families have also been forced to pay large financial deposits to the Israeli government as a collateral for potential “incitement” during the funerals and to ensure that families abide by Israeli-imposed conditions.

Israeli police announced this month 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.

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."

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