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Israeli court denies gov't request to delay decision over release of Palestinian body

Dec. 12, 2016 11:22 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 13, 2016 10:55 A.M.)
Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour's mother holds a picture of her son
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Supreme Court has denied a request filed by the Israeli public prosecution to delay making a decision over whether to release the body of Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour, who died while carrying out a bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem in April, which left 21 injured.

In a statement leading up to the hearing on Friday, the public prosecution asked the court, on behalf of the Israeli security cabinet, for additional 60 days to prepare its position on whether or not the state would release the body, despite the Israeli government already agreeing back in June to release the body of Abu Srour to his family to be buried.

Monday's hearing came in response to a petition filed by the relatives of five Palestinians to be killed while carrying out or allegedly attacks, who asked the Supreme Court to order that the state release the bodies for burial.

On Monday evening, the court rejected the request for a 60-day delay regarding the case of Abu Srour, saying that the Israeli government had already been given ample time to resolve the case, according to lawyer for the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Muhammad Mahmoud, who attended the hearing.

The court informed the public prosecution it had until Jan. 10, 2017 to decide whether or not to release the body, which has been held in an Israeli morgue for nearly eight months.

Israeli authorities continue to hold ten bodies of Palestinians that were killed while carrying out or allegedly carrying out attacks. In response to the families’ petition, the public prosecution said Friday that the Israeli government was prepared to release seven of them, without setting a date for their release.

However, the prosecution told the court that the cases of the three others, which included Abu Srour, would need to be studied further due to the slain Palestinians’ alleged affiliation with the Hamas movement.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the explosion detonated by Abu Srour, saying that the 19-year-old resident of Aida refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem had been one of its operatives.

It remained unclear whether the court’s decision on Monday not to grant the prosecution a delay would also apply to the two others -- the cases of Muhammad Tarayra and Muhammad al-Faqih, who were both killed by Israeli forces after carrying out deadly attacks on Israeli civilians.

The prosecution also reportedly said Friday that if the Israeli security cabinet decides not to hand over the three bodies, the Israeli attorney general will assess the legality of this decision.

Israeli authorities dramatically escalated a policy of withholding Palestinian bodies killed during attacks and alleged attacks, amid a wave of unrest that began last year, with Israeli leadership repeatedly claiming that funerals of Palestinians provided grounds for “incitement” against the Israeli state.

When Israeli authorities have decided to return 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. Such preconditions were also set for the cases of the seven bodies expected to be released.

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.

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."

PLO official Saeb Erekat has also urged the international community to pressure Israel to release Palestinian bodies held by Israeli, saying: "Israel's collective punishments are now being carried out against the living and the dead."

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