High Court orders police to return bodies of Temple Mount killers
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High Court orders police to return bodies of Temple Mount killers

Judges rule that there is no law in place that allows authorities to hold the remains of terrorists or condition their release

Police check the scene and surround a dead body (foreground) where Arab Israeli attackers shot and killed two Israeli policemen on the Temple Mount on July 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
Police check the scene and surround a dead body (foreground) where Arab Israeli attackers shot and killed two Israeli policemen on the Temple Mount on July 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday ordered police to release for burial immediately the bodies of three Arab Israelis who carried out a terror attack at the Temple Mount on July 14, saying they must be handed over to their families within 30 hours.

The decision by the court was a blow to police, who said they sought to condition the return of the assailants’ bodies to their families in a bid to ensure their funerals would not turn into rallies glorifying terrorism.

In its ruling, the High Court said that there is no law that allows police to hold the bodies of citizens or impose conditions for their release. Israel routinely withholds the bodies of Palestinian terrorists.

Adalah, an Arab rights group that filed the High Court petition, hailed the ruling as “precedent-setting.”

Although the court ruled that the bodies of the attackers — Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29, Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19, and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19 — must be released without condition, it did grant police the authority to set the time of the funerals.

Three Arab Israelis named by the Shin Bet as responsible for shooting dead two Israeli police officers next to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017: Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29; Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19 and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19. (Channel 2 composite screenshot)
Three Arab Israelis named by the Shin Bet as responsible for shooting dead two Israeli police officers next to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017: Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29; Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19 and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19. (Channel 2 composite screenshot)

On Sunday, Channel 10 reported that police were prepared to return the bodies of the assailants if the families met certain conditions, including limiting the number of people who attend their funerals, coordinating their timing and leaving a security deposit.

“Failure to comply with these conditions could lead to physical harm and property damage,” unnamed police officials told Channel 10.

“There is a real potential for these disturbances to spill over onto the Temple Mount, Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem,” the officials added, using the Biblical name for the West Bank.

The July 14 attack, in which the three terrorists shot dead police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan using guns an accomplice smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, led Israel to take the rare step of closing the complex to worshipers on a Friday — the holiest day of the week for Muslims — in order to search for additional weapons there.

Israel reopened the holy site two days later to Muslim worshipers after installing metal detectors at a number of entrances to the Temple Mount. Israel removed the metal detectors on Tuesday, along with cameras it installed in the area, but some new railings and barriers remain.

The decision to install metal detectors at the gates to the Temple Mount was met with widespread anger by Muslims, who said their placement was a violation of the status quo in place since Israel’s capture of the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, when the Jewish state agreed to leave control over the holy site in the hands of the Jordanian trust that administers it. Israel denied violating the status quo, saying the terror attack necessitated bolstered security at the access points to the compound.

Since the launch of mass protests over the Temple Mount metal detectors, four Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces, while another was killed Saturday when a Molotov cocktail he was planning to throw at Israeli security forces exploded prematurely.

The tensions surrounding the site were also cited by assailants in two recent terror attacks, including last week when a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish as they celebrated Shabbat.

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