Family members of a Palestinian businessman, who Israeli soldiers shot dead last month when he allegedly tried to ram his car into them, said on Thursday that the Palestinian Authority had informed them that Israel will hand over the remains of their relative in the coming days.
In December, the Israel Defense Forces said that troops shot Hamdan al-Arda dead as he attempted to ram his car into soldiers in Al-Bireh, a town adjacent to Ramallah. At the time, the army said one soldier was lightly wounded in the incident.
Arda’s family members have said they do not believe the IDF’s allegation against him, while Israeli security experts have stated he does not fit the profile of an attacker.
Two family members told The Times of Israel on Thursday that the PA Civil Affairs Commission had informed them Israel had decided to give Arda’s body to them in the coming days.
Asked if Israel will release Arda’s body to his family soon, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, referred questions to the IDF, which declined to comment.
In a recent letter to Mohammed Abu Sneinah, a Jerusalem-based lawyer who requested that Israeli authorities hand Arda’s body over to his family, Daniel Yishon, an officer working for the IDF’s legal adviser, said that “it was decided to return Hamdan Arda’s body to his family for burial.” The letter was provided to The Times of Israel by Khalil al-Arda, a family member of Hamdan.
Abu Sneinah said he received the letter on Wednesday, after the IDF had told him twice in December that it was examining the possibility of giving Arda’s remains to his family.
Firas al-Arda, Hamdan’s eldest son, has said he does not believe the army’s claim that his father attempted to carry out a ramming attack.
“The army’s narrative is not true,” Firas told The Times of Israel in mid-December. “He was on his way home and was not a person who would ever run his car into someone on purpose.”
Hamdan, who was a 58-year-old father to two sons and three daughters, was the owner of an aluminum factory in Al-Bireh. He was originally from Araba, a village near Jenin, but for the past several years had lived in an apartment in Al-Bireh.
Mohammad al-Arda, one of Hamdan’s cousins, has also said he does not believe the army’s allegation about his relative.
“It’s impossible he tried to run over the soldiers. He was not involved in national and political matters,” Mohammad said in a phone call last month. “He was most concerned about his business and family.”
An IDF spokeswoman said on Thursday that the army still stands behind its original assertion that Hamdan attempted to carry out a car ramming.
Asked on Thursday if the Shin Bet holds that Hamdan carried out a car ramming, a spokesman for the security service did not respond.
Shlomo Brom, a retired IDF brigadier general, said in December that Hamdan’s profile does not match that of most Palestinian attackers. “He does not fit the usual profile [of an attacker]. Most are typically young and uneducated.”
Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, has echoed Bron’s comments, but also cautioned he has was aware of some Palestinian terrorists with profiles similar to that of Hamdan.
“I would say it is a not a widespread phenomenon,” Lerner said in a phone call in December, alluding to older Palestinian terrorists with jobs and families. “But I would also say it is not completely unheard of.”
Over the past three and a half years, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who have carried out attacks against Israelis have been below the age of 30.
On Thursday, Firas said Israeli security forces had not questioned him and his family members about his father since the December incident.
“If they really thought he did something, they would have questioned us,” Firas said in a phone call. “Nobody summoned us or questioned us about him or what happened.”
The spokespersons for the IDF and Shin Bet did not respond to inquires about whether they had questioned members of the Arda family about Hamdan.
Lerner said that whether Israeli security forces question family members of suspected attackers typically depends on what kind of attack their relatives allegedly undertook.
“If we are talking about a lone-wold attack, then family members are usually questioned. But if we are talking about an organized attack, then they will not necessarily be questioned,” Lerner said on Thursday.
On Thursday, Firas said he had spent the past several weeks making phone calls to push for the release of his father’s body.
“For weeks, I’ve been doing everything I can so we can bury him,” he said. “It has been really painful and agonizing.”
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