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Protest staged in Hebron by families of slain Palestinians held by Israel

June 27, 2016 3:06 P.M. (Updated: June 27, 2016 10:19 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Dozens of protesters gathered on Sunday in the city of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank for a demonstration organized by the family members of slain Palestinians whose bodies are still being held by Israeli authorities.

The eight Palestinians, the bodies of whom have been held for as long as nine months, were among more than 220 Palestinians that were killed while allegedly carrying out or attempting to carry out attacks against Israeli targets since a wave of violence spread across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel last fall.

Representatives of several human rights groups and Palestinian political factions joined the protest that took place at Ibn Rushd Square in Hebron’s city center.

The protesters raised posters emblazoned with the slogan “We want our sons,” calling on the international community to put pressure on Israel to return the bodies of the “martyrs” so the families could mourn their children and give them a decent burial.

Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who was freed from Israeli custody last month after undertaking a grueling 94-day hunger strike, was among the speakers at the demonstration.

Lawyer Muhammad Elayyan, whose son Bahaa was shot dead by Israeli forces in October and among one of the still-detained bodies, also delivered a speech. After the protest, Israeli forces raided Elayyan’s home in occupied East Jerusalem overnight and detained him.

Sunday’s protest was the latest to be organized by Elayyan and other families members of slain Palestinians. Demonstrations were held last week in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem and outside of Israel’s Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine in Jaffa, where the bodies have been stored.

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.

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

However, in the wake of 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.

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 prisoners rights group 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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