Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon threatened on Sunday that Israel would stop returning bodies of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority if they will be laid to rest in mass funerals. Haaretz reported on Friday that the return of the bodies was conditioned by Israel's defense establishment on the understanding that mass funerals will not be held, fearing they may lead to further unrest in the West Bank.
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. A source in the defense establishment said that the mass funerals held on Saturday in Hebron, attended by thousands of Palestinians, were a violation of the understanding between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, Israel on Saturday handed over the bodies of two suspected terrorists from the Hebron area, but not from the city itself.
"In the two places (villages outside Hebron) the funerals were modest and held by the family during the night," Ya'alon said at the end of Sunday's cabinet meeting. "In Hebron, they lost control and allowed a mass funeral [to be held], therefore I stopped the returning of bodies to Hebron."
Israel will continue returning bodies only if the Palestinian Authority promises to hold quiet funerals, the defense minister said, "if not, we will not return [the bodies], and might even bury them" in Israel.
Despite Ya'alon's remarks, Israel's security establishment considers the bodies of terrorists more as a burden, rather than an asset and tends to reach an agreement with the Palestinian Authority on their return. Many times, after burying bodies of terrorists, the security establishment had difficulties determining their identity and therefore conducted DNA tests when the time had come to return them.
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