Israel to completely halt return of attackers’ bodies

RAMALLAH: Israel’s defence minister announced on Wednesday that the bodies of Palestinian attackers will no longer be returned to their families, in a policy change meant to deter fighters.
Naftali Bennett, who took up the post earlier this month, said he had ordered a complete halt to the release of the bodies, regardless of which organisation the attacker, or attempted attacker, was part of.
The army and defence establishment were informed of the change, which will take full effect after approval by the Security Cabinet.
Israel holds onto the bodies of Palestinian attackers to prevent funerals celebrating their martyrdom, and to use them as bargaining chips to trade for the remains of Israeli soldiers being held by fighter groups.
Two Israeli civilians thought to be suffering from mental illnesses are presumed to be held captive by Hamas, which rules Gaza, as are the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014.
According to the Jerusalem Centre for Legal Aid, a Palestinian group that tracks the issue, Israel is currently holding the bodies of 51Palestinians, including that of Sami Abu Diak, a prisoner who died of cancer in Israeli custody this week.
The parents of Hadar Goldin, one of the Israeli soldiers whose body is being held in Gaza, expressed their support for Bennett and called for the policy to be expanded, according to Israeli radio.
According to a Defence Ministry statement, the policy change is part of “a broader deterrent process” against potential future attackers, and any exceptions will be made only at the minister’s discretion.
Israel’s Supreme Court approved the practice of withholding bodies in September. However, some bodies have been returned recently, with those from Jerusalem restricted to midnight funerals attended only by a handful of people, mainly close family members.
Adalah, a legal group which advocates for Arab rights in Israel, has called the practice “collective punishment” and condemned the court’s decision as violating international and Israeli law. — dpa