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Health officials struck back yesterday after Haaretz reported that the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine had swapped the body parts of crash victims and buried their remains in supermarket bags.

Yesterday's report indicated that body parts of two victims of a 2008 plane crash near Moshav Bazra had been transported from the national forensic institute in plastic shopping bags, and that feet from two bodies had been misidentified.

Haaretz has learned that in a response issued to the family by the state, officials at the forensic institute said that some of the body parts it had received from the crash site were already in supermarket bags. In the interest of preserving the victims' dignity, they said, a decision was made to keep the remains in the bags and not move them to other receptacles.

"I've never before been exposed to body parts being thrown into a grave that way. This disrespect is highly regrettable," said Dr. Hen Kogel, the physician sent on behalf of the Madan casualty notification organization to supervise the partial exhumation of Aviram Pasternak, one of the victims.

One health official involved in the case said, "In the interest of the dignity of the deceased, the body parts could have been wrapped in shrouds, or in black nylon bags. There was no reason to bury them in supermarket bags."

According to Kogel, "When we got to the cemetery at 7 A.M. to supervise the exchange of remains, despite the institute's promises to exhume the grave only in our presence, it had already been dug up. Aside from the issue of the dignity of the deceased, what is serious in this case is that body parts were found in these bags that are not referred to in Abu Kabir's report. So the question remains, 'Whom do they belong to?'"