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NGO appeals Israeli minister's decision to halt return of withheld Palestinian bodies

May 26, 2016 11:01 A.M. (Updated: June 13, 2016 11:11 A.M.)
Palestinian mourners carry the body of Hadeel al-Hashlamon, an 18-year old Palestinian woman who was shot by Israeli forces, during her funeral in the West Bank city of Hebron on Sept. 23, 2015 (AFP/Hazem Bader, File)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian prisoners’ rights group has appealed the recently ordered freeze on the return of Palestinian bodies withheld by Israel, the group announced on Thursday.

Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan announced on Tuesday that he had ordered Israeli police to suspend the return of bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, after seeing footage of a crowd gathering outside the funeral of one such slain Palestinians.

Addameer lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud said he had appealed Israeli public prosecution to overturn Erdan’s decision, calling for Israeli authorities to act in accordance with a ruling from the Israeli Supreme Court which ordered the release of the bodies of nine Palestinian from Jerusalem.

Erdan had ordered the freeze of returning bodies due to perceived “incitement” at the funeral of Alaa Abu Jamal, whose body was returned to his family in the early hours on Tuesday in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir.

Abu Jamal, 22, was killed by Israeli police on October 13, after he allegedly rammed his car into a bus stop in West Jerusalem, killing one Israeli and injuring four others.

Although Israeli authorities place stringent restrictions on the number of attendees allowed at the funerals of Palestinians whose bodies have been returned.

However, a crowd gathered outside of Abu Jamal’s funeral, chanting “God is great,” a phrase used regularly during Muslim funerals, as well as “with our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, martyr,” a variation on a popular Arabic political slogan.

Mahmoud said that the Abu Jamal family had abided by all the conditions imposed by the Israeli police, but that they had no control over the gathering of youths outside of the cemetery and mosque.

The bodies of six Palestinians from Jerusalem who were killed by Israeli forces are still held by the Israeli authorities.

Israel currently holds the bodies of at least a dozen Palestinians, including six Jerusalemites, killed by Israeli forces since October while they were allegedly committing or attempting to commit attacks.

More than 200 Palestinians and almost 30 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October.

Israel dramatically increased its policy of withholding bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory since October, although it has scaled back on the policy in recent months.

A joint statement released in early April by Addameer and Israeli minority rights group Adalah 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."

In recent months, Israel has accused numerous Palestinians of “incitement,” alleging that it was behind a number of alleged attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli military targets and settlers.

Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.
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