Israel Says It Will Release Bodies of Nine Slain Palestinian Assailants

The state's attorneys office reply resolves an appeal by nine families to Israel's Supreme Court to recover the bodies for burial ahead of Ramadan.

Jack Khoury
Nir Hasson
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The site of a February attack at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate.
The site of a February attack at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate. Credit: Olivia Fitusi
Jack Khoury
Nir Hasson

The state's attorney's office told the Supreme Court on Thursday that the authorities were taking steps for a gradual handover of nine bodies of slain Palestinian attackers from east Jerusalem to their families for burial.

The statement seemed to obviate the need for the court to immediately rule on petitions filed by a human rights group, Adamir, on the families' behalf. 

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said the state's decision rendered the appeals as redundant for now, adding that the courts's doors remained open for any future developments.

In Thursday's session the state said that "the updated position of the Israel Police is that it does not oppose returning the bodies of the terrorists from east Jerusalem to their families.... for burial" on condition that funeral rites do no include "inciteful eulogies" or  seek to "glorify" the names of the deceased.

A police representatie said there was no intent to delay the return of remains and that negotiations were  under way with families to return them in a gradual and contiguous manner, as long as police demands were met.

Attorney Mohammed Mohammed of Adamir and Naim Shehadeh of Adallah said the families urged the return of the remains before the start of Ramadan next month.

They welcomed the decision and said they thought it would have repercussons for the release of other remains held by Israel. 

A state attorney at the court, Avi Milikovsky, said the Muslim observance of Ramadan was being taken into account but that Israel could not commit to a timetable, suggesting that negotiations were under way for a gradual return of remains to each family.

Rubinstein, thje vice president of the court,  said there was no need for a timetable at this stage since the sides were in agreement, and the matter was "now only a matter of implementation." 

"In this regard, we feel that the appeal has exhausted its purpose," Rubinstein said, adding that the court's doors were always open for further deliberations if necessary.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office published a statement on Tuesday that responsibility for the return of Palestinian remains would henceforth be restored to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

The statement in effect meant the reversal of a decision made in March not to return terrorists' remains to their families.

Israeli Arab lawmaker Haneen Zoabi said in response to the result of the court's proceedings taht "Israel is not changing its policy" and that the bodies are being released "only as a result of a consistent struggle ... to free the dead from illegal detention."