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Israel approves release of slain Palestinian bodies to their families

Aug. 16, 2016 5:11 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2016 7:24 P.M.)
The mother (center) of Bahaa Elayyan, a Palestinian killed in October whose body is still held by Israel, waits outside a courtroom on July 4, 2016. (MaanImages/Jaclynn Ashly, File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities approved on Tuesday the release of slain Palestinian's bodies which have been withheld since October following attacks or alleged attacks on Israelis, according to the head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs.

Issa Qaraqe said in a statement that Israeli authorities would gradually begin to release the bodies to their families starting Wednesday.

Israeli authorities also added preconditions for the release of the bodies, including conditions that the funerals be held at 1 a.m. and that only the families of the slain Palestinians would be permitted to attend, Qaraqe said, adding that he hoped Israeli authorities would commit to the agreement and not backtrack as happened in the past.

The families of the slain Palestinians have appealed the Israeli Supreme Court for months, with the court ruling in May that all of the bodies of Palestinians held by Israel be released to their families before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in June.

However, after releasing the body of Alaa Abu Jamal, Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan ordered that Israeli police suspend the return of the bodies just a few weeks after the ruling, claiming that the funeral encouraged "incitement" against the state of Israel.

The families have since had to return to court to negotiate the release of their slain family members. In June, Israeli police decided that slain Palestinians from East Jerusalem accused of "terrorism" would no longer have funerals in their neighborhoods or villages, but would instead be buried in cemeteries chosen by the police, adding to a long list of preconditions for the release of at least seven slain Palestinians.

While the families of the slain Palestinians have accepted conditions set by Israeli police, the bodies have yet to be released by Israeli authorities, despite Israeli intelligence agreeing to return the body of Bahaa Elayyan, who has been held in a refrigerator in Israel's mortuary in Jaffa for 10 months.

On the same day of the announcement to release Elayyan’s body, Israeli intelligence backtracked on its decision when the family refused more preconditions after they had already signed an agreement with Israeli authorities and accepted all of previous Israeli conditions.

Muhammad Elayyan, Bahaa’s father, said earlier this month that he and his family believed Israeli police did not actually intend to return their son’s body, and that they would most likely have to wait until a decision was made by the Israeli Supreme Court regarding their appeal.

Palestinian families have accused Israeli authorities of forcing them to jump through expensive and drawn-out legal hoops without any intention of releasing the bodies of their loved ones.

Israel dramatically increased its policy of withholding bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory since October, in which at least 217 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis.

Human rights organizations have also widely condemned the policy, with prisoners’ rights group Addameer calling it a form of “collective punishment” against Palestinians who had not been accused of any wrongdoing, also noting that it “adds to the severe grief and trauma of families of the deceased.”
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