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Israel to release the bodies of 9 slain Palestinians

Dec. 23, 2016 1:41 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 23, 2016 9:30 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After being withheld by Israeli authorities for as long as five months, the bodies of nine Palestinians that have been killed while committing or allegedly committing attacks are set to be released Friday evening so that the families of the slain Palestinians may bury them.

The Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs identified the nine Palestinians Friday afternoon, clarifying earlier reports Thursday evening saying that seven unidentified bodies would be released.

Five of the bodies are set to be returned at the Israeli liaison’s office in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron at 6 p.m.:

Mustafa Baradiya from the al-Arroub refugee camp whose body has been held since July 18, Ameer Jamal al-Rajabi and Muhannad Jameel al-Rajabi from Hebron City -- killed alongside one another on Sep. 19, Issa Salim Mahmoud Tarayra from Bani Naim, held since Sep. 20, and Khalid Ahmad Elayyan Ikhlayyil from Beit Ummar, held since Oct. 30.

Meanwhile, the body of Muhammad Jihad Hussein Harb from Qalqiliya would be returned at 3 p.m. at the Eliahu checkpoint after being held since Dec. 8, and the body of Wael Abu Saleh from Tulkarem, held since June 20, is to be returned at 3 p.m. at the Jubara checkpoint.

Held by Israeli authorities since Oct. 31, the body of Muhammad Turkman from Qabatiya in Jenin is be returned at 3 p.m. at the Yaabad crossroads, while the body of Jihad Muhammad Said Khalil from Beit Wazan in Nablus is to be returned at the Jit crossroads at 3 p.m., after being held since Nov. 22.

Responding to petitions filed by the family members of a number of slain Palestinians, Israeli authorities released the bodies of seven last week.

The Israeli public prosecutor said at the time that the cases of the bodies of Muhammad Tarayra, Muhammad al-Faqih, and Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour needed “to be studied further,” due to the fact that they were affiliated with Hamas.

The state requested an additional 60 days at the time to prepare its position regarding the three bodies, however, at least with the case of Abu Srour, the Israeli Supreme Court denied the extension and set the deadline for 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 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.

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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