Israel is reportedly to release the bodies of numerous Palestinian terrorists, including those of suicide bombers, to their families early next month.
It was not immediately clear how many bodies were involved; Hebrew news reports Thursday varied wildly, from just a few to several dozen, and there was no official comment on the numbers and identities of those involved.
Israeli military sources said the process was a legal one, and that Israel had agreed to return the bodies to the Palestinian families for burial in the context of a petition over the issue submitted by Palestinian relatives to the Supreme Court. They said the move was unrelated to ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Before they are returned, the IDF is to carry out DNA testing, to match the bodies to the Palestinian families, the IDF said.
Among the bodies reportedly set to be returned are those of suicide bombers Mahmoud Qawasmeh, who killed 17 people on a Haifa bus in March, 2003; Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, who killed 15 people in Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant in August 2001; and Mohammed Shahin, who killed four people at a yeshiva at the settlement of Otniel in December 2002.
In August, the Prime Minister’s Office denied an imminent return of Palestinian terrorists’ bodies. “At this stage Israel has absolutely no plans to release terrorists’ bodies,” an official said.
Last May, Israel released 91 bodies of Palestinian terrorists in a gesture of goodwill toward the Palestinian Authority.