Israel is holding the bodies of five Islamic Jihad militants killed in last week's attack on a Gaza tunnel, the Israeli army said on Sunday.
"Over the last few days, the southern command and the Gaza division have completed their efforts in exposing and destroying terror tunnels," said the IDF spokesperson. During this process, the five bodies were found in Israeli territory, it added.
The Israeli army last week blew up a tunnel that Islamic Jihad had dug under the Gaza-Israel border into Israeli territory. Seven Islamic Jihad members were killed in the explosion. Five others were initially said to be trapped, but Islamic Jihad later announced that they too had died.
Israel’s coordinator of government activities in the territories said on Thursday that Israel will not allow Palestinians to search for the militants still missing in the cross-border tunnel unless progress is made on returning the missing and slain Israelis thought to be held by Hamas.
Hamas said that Israel holding the bodies does not deter or change their policies. A senior member of the Al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, said the brigades would get back the bodies, threatening to “break Israel’s neck." Another senior Islamic Jihad figure in Gaza, Ahmed Al-Mudallal, said, “Israel won’t hold the bodies for very long and we won’t let them remain in Israeli hands. Islamic Jihad knows how to get them back and the organization has a few options.”
A high court petition was submitted by the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Gaza-based Al-Mezan center requested that Hamas be allowed to search for members of Islamic Jihad trapped in the tunnels. The government responded that the army is still at work in the area.
The petitioners are seeking to have the Israeli government allow Hamas, which has overall control of the Gaza Strip, to enter a buffer zone that Palestinians are barred ordinarily barred entering to search for the missing. The families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Golden, two Israeli soldiers who were killed in Gaza during fighting there in 2014 and whose bodied are being held by Hamas, are demanding that the government refuse the request
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