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Palestinians demand Israel to return withheld bodies of killed Palestinians

Nov. 10, 2018 5:43 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 11, 2018 2:46 P.M.)
A picture of one of the Israeli 'cemeteries of numbers' (File)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Dozens of Palestinians protested in Hebron City in the southern West Bank, on Saturday, demanding the Israeli authorities to release the bodies of dozens of Palestinians killed by the Israeli army forces.

Israel has been withholding the bodies of 33 slain Palestinians since 2016.

The Israeli authorities had returned the body of a slain Palestinian youth, Muhammad Elayyan, to his family on Friday at the Ofer detention center after the Israeli Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman had agreed on returning Elayyan's body a day before.

Israel has long had "cemeteries for the enemy dead," also referred to as "cemeteries of numbers," where Palestinians who died during attacks on Israelis are held in nameless graves marked by numbers.

Israel dramatically increased its policy of withholding bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2015, although it has scaled back on the policy in recent months.

Israel has attempted to negotiate the release of Palestinian bodies as well as several Hamas affiliates detained from the Gaza Strip in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas.

A joint statement released in 2016 by Addameer and the 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."

Human rights organizations have widely condemned the policy of withholding bodies, with prisoners' rights group Addameer calling it a form of "collective punishment" against Palestinians who had not been accused of any wrongdoing, also noting that it "adds to the severe grief and trauma of families of the deceased."

Palestinians say that the Israeli authorities uses this policy as a punishment to the families of those slain Palestinians by preventing their burial in a proper manner and to use them as a bargaining chip in possible future prisoners exchange deals.
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