Israel Still Holding 19 Bodies of Palestinian Fighters Killed in Gaza War

The IDF declines to say whether it seeks to swap for the body of a soldier killed in a bitter battle in Gaza City.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Palestinian fighters from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, are seen inside an underground tunnel in Gaza August 18, 2014.
Palestinian fighters from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, are seen inside an underground tunnel in Gaza August 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Israel is holding the bodies of 19 Palestinian militants killed during Operation Protective Edge last summer, according to a human rights group that obtained the information from the Defense Ministry.

In October, the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual queried the Defense Ministry on the matter under the Freedom of Information Act. It asked how many Palestinian bodies the ministry was holding, if they had been identified and where they were buried.

Last week Hamoked was told by the Israel Defense Forces that 18 bodies had been buried in Israel on July 23, in the middle of the war.

That was just a few days after the attack on an armored personnel carrier in Gaza City in which seven Givati fighters were killed, among them Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose body was never found. This raises the question of whether Israeli soldiers were ordered to transfer Palestinian bodies to Israel in order to negotiate for information on Shaul’s remains.

The IDF declined to comment on this aspect, and in the past government spokespeople, when addressing Israel's policy on burying dead Palestinian fighters, have said "Israel does not trade in bodies.” Bodies of militants, however, have been exchanged for prisoners several times.

Of the 19 Palestinians, one was buried in October, though no reason has been given for the delay.

The IDF declined to give the location of the graves, citing “information security.” As for their identity, IDF sources said the Military Rabbinate had “data that could make it easier to identify the bodies,” but that “no firm identification had been made.”

The IDF spokesman declined further comment.

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