Israel handed over the bodies of seven suspected Palestinian terrorists from the Hebron area to the Palestinian Authority on Friday evening, after several days of stormy protests in Hebron in demand for the bodies' immediate release.
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According to a source in the Israeli defense establishment, the bodies' release was conditioned on the understanding that they will not be laid to rest in mass funerals, which Israel is concerned may lead to further unrest in the West Bank.
Five bodies have been identified as Dania Ershied, Bayyan al-Asili, Hussam and Bashar al-Jabari, and Tarek Natsha, all slain during alleged attacks or attempted on Israeli civilians and soldiers in Hebron. The identity of the two additional bodies is currently unclear.
According to sources in Hebron, Israel is still holding nine other bodies. According to the Hebron district mayor, Kamel Hamid, the bodies were released due to diplomatic efforts and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' involvement.
The Israeli cabinet had initially decided to hold the bodies of Palestinian terrorists, but according to the Israeli source, the defense establishment has changed its stance on the matter, and now considers the bodies as "a burden and not an asset," due to the need to keep them and even to bury them, and that their withholding is only instigating further unrest.
Israel keeps most of the bodies of the terrorists killed so far in the current wave of violence. Of the over 65 Palestinians killed in incidents since the beginning of the month, 18 are Hebron-area residents (14 of killed in the city, four killed on Israeli territory).
In Hebron in recent days there have been stormy protest marches and demonstrations in front of the Red Cross offices every day, with a demand for immediate release of the bodies. The withholding of the bodies may also be related to an attempt to pressure Hamas in Gaza to make progress in the negotiations for the return of the bodies of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, which have been held by Hamas since the war in the Gaza Strip last summer. But for now, in Hebron it’s already a matter of the bodies themselves, rather than the occupation or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is intensifying the anger before the next attack.
Data collected by the Shin Bet, as of Thursday morning, 80 percent of the terrorists who were active in the present wave of terror were between 16 and 24 years of age (another three were aged 13-15 and the others 23-25). Almost 90 percent of them are men and about 90 percent are single. The percentage of East Jerusalemites among them is now about 35 percent (after approaching 80 percent after two weeks of violence).
About half of the terrorists came from the West Bank, 92 percent of them residents of the Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah area, and only 8 percent from the northern West Bank. Over 70 percent of the attacks were stabbings, and most of the others were combined events: running over with vehicles and stabbing, or stabbing and shooting. There have been few shooting attacks so far. Despite repeated calls by Hamas in the Gaza Strip to switch to firearms, as yet there is no clear trend in that direction.