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Israel to return bodies of 7 slain Palestinians for burial, 3 to remain held

Dec. 9, 2016 10:45 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 11, 2016 4:03 P.M.)
Israeli security forces tend to an injured soldier, next to the body of a Palestinian man, outside Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, Oct. 16, 2015. Hazem Bader / AFP / Getty Images
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli government on Friday announced that it would return seven bodies of slain Palestinians to their families for burial, while three out of the ten bodies currently being held will remain in Israeli freezers for further "examination" over the slain Palestinians' alleged "terrorist" affiliation to the Hamas movement.

Member of the Palestinian National Committee for Retrieving Bodies of Martyrs Amin al-Bayid told Ma'an in Hebron that the decision to release the seven bodies, some of which have been held for as long as four and even five months, came in response to an appeal submitted to an Israeli court by the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center.

Al-Bayid identified the seven as Wael Abu Saleh from Tulkarem, Rami Awartani from Nablus, Hatim Shaludi from Hebron, Muhammad al-Sarrahin from Hebron, Mustafa Baradiya from Surif, Muhammad al-Rajabi from Hebron, and Sari Abu Ghurab from Qabatia in Jenin district.

Israeli authorities have not set a specific date for the return of the bodies.

Meanwhile, three bodies will remain held by the Israeli government. Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the Palestinians were “terrorists affiliated with the Hamas group in Gaza, and thus will not be handed over.”

Al-Bayid identified the three as Muhammad Tarayra from the Hebron-area village of Bani Naim, Muhammad al-Faqih from Dura, and Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Israel’s State Attorney said that the matter regarding the remaining three bodies needed “to be studied further,” due to the fact that they were affiliated with Hamas, and that one of the bodies belongs to 17-year-old Muhammad Nasser Tarayra, from the Hebron-area village of Bani Naim, who stabbed and killed 13-year-old Hillel Yaffe Ariel in her home in the Kiryat Arba settlement last June.

The state requested an additional 60 days to prepare its position regarding the three bodies.

As has been customary with the release of bodies of slain Palestinians in the past, Israel agreed to hand over the bodies to the families of the deceased only if they agree to the Israeli army’s preconditions regarding the funerals.

Following a petition filed by the relatives of five occupied West Bank alleged assailants whose bodies are being held, the security cabinet members decided that "already at this stage it is possible to take action and return seven out of 10 bodies discussed in different petitions," Haaretz said.

Haaretz quoted the government as saying that the preconditions for releasing the bodies -- which in the past have dictated grave locations, the number of family members who can attend the funeral, funeral times, and insurance fines -- “are intended to assure that the funerals don't turn into displays of incitement and support for terrorism."

Israeli authorities dramatically escalated a policy of withholding Palestinian bodies killed by Israeli forces following the emergence of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October 2015, 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 scaling down the practice, although a number of bodies still remain withheld.

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 in June 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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