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Funerals set off for 2 slain Palestinians returned after being held by Israeli state

Dec. 31, 2016 1:48 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2017 2:48 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Funerals were held Saturday for two slain Palestinians whose bodies were released on Friday by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Jerusalem.

The bodies of Maen Nasser al-Din Abu Qaraa, 23, from the village of al-Mazraa al-Qibliyaa in the Ramallah district, and Hamad Khader al-Sheikh, 21, from the village of Beit Surik in the Jerusalem district, were held by the Israeli state for 57 and 17 days, respectively.

The body of Abu Qaraa was carried from the Ramallah Governmental Hospital to al-Mazraa al-Qibliyaa for the final goodbyes and burial, while the body of al-Sheikh was taken from the same hospital to his family home in the village of Beituniya, before returning his body to his home in Beit Surik.

The bodies of Abu Qaraa and al-Sheikh were both wrapped in the Palestinian national flag, and had two different funerals due to the distances between the villages.

Al-Sheikh’s father said that the family was relieved that they had received their son’s body and were finally able to bury him, while friends of Abu Qaraa remembered the slain Palestinian, saying that he had always been an activist and used to smile and “love life.”

Deputy Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a group which Abu Qaraa was aligned with, said during his funeral that “in accordance with international law, it is our people’s right to resist in order to achieve national freedom and independence.”

Abu Qaraa was killed by Israeli forces on Nov. 3 near the entrance of the illegal Israeli Ofra settlement after he allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an at the time that a Palestinian "armed with a knife attempted to stab an Israeli soldier guarding a bus stop" near Ofra, and that she was not aware of any Israelis being injured in the case.

Israeli forces reportedly prevented Palestinian medics from approaching the scene, eyewitnesses said, adding that Israeli medical teams did not treat him, leaving him to bleed to death.

Meanwhile, Al-Sheikh was killed after carrying out a stabbing attack in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem on Dec. 14, injuring one Israeli soldier.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said at the time that a suspect approached a group of Israeli police forces deployed near the Austrian Hospice hospital in the Old City, took out a screwdriver and stabbed one of the officers in the head, lightly injuring him.

Witnesses said al-Sheikh was left on the ground bleeding for 20 minutes, adding that a Palestinian doctor arrived on the scene but was pushed away by Israeli forces before they finally let him administer first aid to the wounded Palestinian until Israeli ambulances arrived at the scene.

The release of the bodies of Qaraa and al-Sheikh was the latest round of returns of Palestinian bodies by Israeli authorities, with nine Palestinian bodies being released last week and seven released the week prior.

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.

However, following an uproar of protest among Palestinians over the policy, Israeli authorities began scaling down the practice, although Israeli authorities have continued to hold at least nine Palestinian bodies for between eight and three months.

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.

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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