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Israel set to release body of slain Palestinian, continues to withhold 3 killed last week

June 23, 2017 2:20 P.M. (Updated: June 24, 2017 3:32 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities are set to return the body of a Palestinian who was killed by Israeli forces near Qalandiya checkpoint on Tuesday in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, while the Israeli state has continued to hold the bodies of three other Palestinians who were killed following a deadly attack in occupied East Jerusalem last week.

The Palestinian Committee of Civil Affairs said Friday that Israeli authorities would return the body of 23-year-old Bahaa Imad al-Hirbawi at 3:30 pm on Friday to al-Hirbawi’s hometown of al-Eizariya in the central West Bank district of Jerusalem.

His body will be delivered at a road junction nearby the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, the committee said.

Al-Hirbawi was killed at the Jabaa military checkpoint near the illegal Israeli settlement of Adam, close to the infamous Qalandiya checkpoint in Ramallah, after Israeli forces opened live fire on him for allegedly attempting to carry out a stabbing attempt.

However, al-Hirbawi’s family rejected the Israeli army’s version of events as “false claims.”

Members of the family said that Bahaa left home Tuesday afternoon after getting off of work, and said he was going to Ramallah city to shop and visit his brother who lives there.

Relatives cited eyewitness accounts as saying that Israeli forces stopped Bahaa at the Jabaa checkpoint on his way back home from Ramallah and surrounded him. After that, “nobody knows what happened,” they said.

The family said they first heard of Bahaa’s death through social media posts and were officially informed by the Palestinian liaison sometime later.

Israeli forces have been routinely criticized for their excessive use of force and for what rights groups have termed a "shoot-to-kill" policy against Palestinians who did not constitute a threat at the time of their death, or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner -- amid a backdrop of impunity for Israelis who committed the killings.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Committee of Civil Affairs also released a statement on Friday saying that “continuous efforts” were being made to pressure the Israeli authorities to return the bodies of the three slain Palestinians who allegedly carried out a deadly attack at Damascus Gate near the Old City, which left an Israeli police officer dead.

After it was revealed that the three alleged assailants -- Baraa Ibrahim Saleh, 18, Adel Hassan Ahmad Ankoush, 18, and Usama Ahmad Ata, 19 -- were from the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Mashaal, the town was subsequently placed under lockdown, and has been subjected to multiple military raids since.

Israeli authorities had taken measurements of the homes of the alleged assailants in preparations for punitive demolitions, which the families had been informed would be carried out “soon.”

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a total of 22 people, the three men’s family members, will be left homeless by the punitive demolitions in spite of not having been charged with any wrongdoing.

Adel Ankoush’s mother Zeinab was also detained by Israeli forces during a raid on her home. She is expected to be held by Israeli authorities for an additional eight days under suspicions of "supporting a terrorist organization and planning to conduct an attack," according to a statement released Friday by Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri.

She is also being interrogated for "inciting violence and terrorism," al-Samri added.

Israeli police had also extended the detention of a Palestinian in his fifties from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-Issawiya until June 26, for Israeli authorities to conduct more interrogations over suspicions the man had "transported the three terrorists to the area on the day of the attack," according to al-Samri.

Some 250,000 Palestinians who had received family visitation permits to enter Jerusalem and Israel during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan also saw their permits revoked following the attack, while the immediate and extended family of the three alleged assailants had all of their Israeli permits revoked, including long-term Israeli work permits.

Meanwhile, Palestinians said they were subjected to “collective punishment” following the attack through road closures, arbitrary searches, and mass detentions.

Israeli authorities are known to withhold Palestinian bodies from their families for extended periods of time after they have carried out an attack, alleging that funerals of “martyrs” -- Palestinians killed by Israeli forces -- encourage “incitement” against the Israeli state.

However, Palestinians have long claimed that the policy is a form of "collective punishment," targeting the families of actual or alleged Palestinian attackers, while also preventing families of slain Palestinians from requesting proper autopsies on their loved ones, as the bodies returned are often damaged and disfigured.

A case demanding the release of Palestinian bodies still being held by the Israeli state, including Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour, Muhammad Tarayra, Muhammad al-Faqih, Rami Awartani, and Misbah Abu Sbeih -- which have been held for 14 months, 12 months, 11 months, 11 months, and eight months respectively, has been frozen in Israel’s Supreme Court for months.

Israel has also continued to hold the body of Fadi al-Qunbar, although he was not included in the case heard by the Supreme Court.

A joint statement released by Addameer and Israeli minority rights group Adalah in March 2016 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."
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