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Israeli cabinet decides not to return bodies of Hamas-affiliated slain Palestinians

Jan. 2, 2017 4:57 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 3, 2017 12:33 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Diplomatic-Security cabinet of the Israeli government decided Sunday that bodies of slain Palestinians affiliated with the Hamas movement who were killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis will not be returned to their families, according to reports from Israeli media.

Israeli news website Arutz Sheva reported that the bodies will instead be buried inside Israel in a “graveyard for enemy dead,” and that the decision came as the cabinet “discussed ways to advance the return of the bodies of Israeli citizens and the bodies of two soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza.”

Hamas spokesperson Abed al-latif al-Qanou said in statement on Monday that the cabinet’s decisions regarding Hamas slain members were “racist” and “expresses the Israeli occupation’s aggression and savagery towards Palestinian people and prisoners.”

“This criminal policy will not succeed in breaking the determination of slain Palestinians’ families and Palestinian prisoners, and will not affect Hamas’ stand towards the case of Palestinian prisoners,” al-Qanou said.

According to Haaretz, the decision was reached "unanimously" as part of Israel's attempt to "use Palestinian relatives of assailants to pressure Hamas to return the bodies of fallen Israeli soldiers in return for their loved ones."

Hebrew media reports said the decision would be implemented as an official Israeli policy regarding the current Hamas-affiliated Palestinian bodies being held by Israel, as well as any similar cases in the future.

Israeli authorities have continued to hold the bodies of at least nine slain Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks against Israelis for between eight and three months.

Among the nine are the bodies of the three Hamas-affiliated Palestinians:

Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour, 19, from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank, who died while carrying out a bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem on April 18, which left 21 injured.

The Israeli Supreme Court had rejected a request filed by the Israeli prosecution to delay making a decision over whether to release Abu Srour’s body. The Israeli government had already agreed back in June to release Abu Srour’s body to his family to be buried.

Muhammad Tarayra
, 17, from the Hebron-area village of Bani Naim, was killed after carrying out a stabbing attack in the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba in Hebron that killed a 13-year-old Israeli girl, Hallel Yafa Ariel.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported earlier in December that Tarayra was among the Palestinians considered “terrorists affiliated with the Hamas group in Gaza,” and Israeli authorities had appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court for more time to decide on whether or not to return him.

Muhammad al-Faqih, from the village of Dura in Hebron, was killed by Israeli forces after fortifying himself in a house in Hebron’s Surif village several weeks after allegedly carrying out a shooting attack on a settler family’s vehicle, killing the father, and leaving the wife and two children injured. At the time of his death, Israeli forces fired anti-tank missiles at the house and demolished it before al-Faqih was killed.

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

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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