Israeli soldiers on Friday went to return the remains of a Palestinian teenager who was killed in October while allegedly throwing firebombs in the West Bank, only to be told by the family that it was the body of someone else.
The macabre mix-up, which the army called an “unfortunate mistake,” highlighted Israel’s controversial policy of holding the remains of Palestinians killed while allegedly carrying out attacks, something rights groups say amounts to collective punishment of bereaved families. Israel says it serves as a deterrent for future attacks.
Israel had planned to return the bodies of two Palestinians — Isra Khazimia and Amjad Abu Sultan — on “humanitarian grounds.” At the time of the alleged attacks, Khazimia was said to have had mental health issues, while Abu Sultan was a minor.
But when they handed over the remains of Abu Sultan, his family informed the soldiers that it was the wrong body. The remains have not been publicly identified.
“Upon return of the body, it was revealed that the body was identified incorrectly. This unfortunate mistake is being reviewed by the relevant authorities,” the military said in a statement. It apologized for the mistake and said the correct remains would be returned to the family on Saturday.
The Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, which coordinates day-to-day activities with Israel, said it was Abu Sultan’s family who noticed the body was not their son’s. The family could not immediately be reached for comment.
كان من المقرر ان يسلم جثمان الطفل الشهيد #امجد_ابوسلطان اليوم، لكن بعد الكشف عن الجثمان أتضح انه ليس امجد وإنما جثمان شهيد آخر حاول الجميع انتشال جثمانه إلا أن الإجراءات الصهيونية حالات دون ذلك. المجد للشهداء pic.twitter.com/ZSUeflVgW5
— Malik Al Qadi (@MalikQadi1) November 19, 2021
Abu Sultan, a teenager, was killed in October while attempting to throw firebombs at cars near an Israel settlement, the army said. Israeli police shot and killed Khazimia in September, when she allegedly tried to stab an officer in Jerusalem’s Old City. Her remains were returned as planned.
Israel says its policy of holding the remains of Palestinian attackers is needed to deter future attacks and for possible exchanges for the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by the Palestinian terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel and its enemies have a long history of trading prisoners as well as the remains of those killed in armed conflict.
The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, a Palestinian rights group, says Israel is holding the remains of around 80 Palestinians, many in secret cemeteries where their graves are marked by numbered plaques.