'Israel to Return Palestinian Bodies Previously Planned to Be Part of Shalit Deal'

Palestinian media reports that the bodies of the Awadallah brothers, former leaders of Hamas military wing, are to be handed over to Palestinian Authority in coming days.

Palestinian media reported Monday that among the bodies Israel is due to transfer to the Palestinian Authority in coming days are the bodies of senior Hamas officials, which were supposed to be included in a deal with Hamas to secure the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel has thus far refused to hand over the bodies of the Awadallah brothers, former leaders of the Hamas military wing, who were killed by Israeli soldiers near Hebron in September 1998, since they were being held as a bargaining chip for a future deal on Gilad Shalit.

Hamas militant - Reuters - 9.4.11

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.