Barak Stops Transfer of Palestinian Bodies to PA at Last Minute

Defense Minister decides to hold off on transfer of 84 bodies of Palestinian terrorists following Haaretz report that bodies of senior Hamas officials Awadallah brothers slated for Shalit deal.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak issues an order to stop the transfer of the bodies of 84 Palestinian terrorists to the Palestinian Authority at the last minute on Monday, despite earlier confirmation from the IDF Spokesperson's Office that the transfer would go through.

Barak made his decision to hold off on the transfer after a Haaretz report revealed that two of the bodies to be returned to the PA were those of the Awadallah brothers, former leaders of the Hamas military wing, who were killed by Israeli soldiers near Hebron in September 1998. The defense minister explained his decision, saying it was important to weigh the repercussions of such a transfer on a future Shalit deal.

Barak - AP - March 24, 2011

Israel has thus far refused to hand over the bodies of the Awadallah brothers, since they were being held as a bargaining chip for a future deal on Gilad Shalit.

After the second intifada, Israel had refused to return the bodies of the Awadallah brothers, but following the abduction of Gilad Shalit by Hamas, the government changed its stance and decided the bodies could be helpful in bargaining for the abducted soldier. The matter of returning the bodies of the Awadallah brothers has since been delayed due to a possible deal on Shalit.

Now, according to Palestinian media, the bodies will be transferred over to the Palestinian Authority as part of the 84 bodies agreed upon for transfer as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently approved that 84 bodies of Palestinian terrorists buried in Israel will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

According to sources in the Prime Minister's Office, the Palestinian Authority appealed to Israel's defense establishment regarding the matter two months ago, which was subsequently brought to Netanyahu's attention. The prime minister then gave his approval for the operation.