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IDF says it is holding body of Palestinian shot dead for hurling firebombs

Military had stayed silent on fate of man since Monday incident; last month Israel said it would stop returning bodies of any Palestinians killed in anti-Israeli attacks

Illustrative: A Palestinian hurls a Molotov cocktail toward Israeli security forces during clashes, near the city of Hebron, in the West Bank, on October 11, 2015. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
Illustrative: A Palestinian hurls a Molotov cocktail toward Israeli security forces during clashes, near the city of Hebron, in the West Bank, on October 11, 2015. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

The Israeli military said Friday it was holding the body of a Palestinian shot dead in a West Bank clash earlier this week, ending days of uncertainty over his fate.

The announcement follows a policy change last month in which Israel said it would not return the bodies of any Palestinian killed during or as a result of an anti-Israeli attack.

The policy aims both to prevent celebratory funerals in attackers’ hometowns and to potentially use them in negotiations to retrieve the bodies of Israeli soldiers held by terror groups.

On Monday, 27-year-old Palestinian Samir Hamidi was killed by Israeli soldiers near the northern West Bank settlement of Einav after the military said he threw firebombs at soldiers.

“Troops spotted three assailants who hurled Molotov cocktails at them,” the army said Monday. “The troops responded with fire and identified hitting one of the assailants.”

IDF soldiers during a raid in the village of Bruqin near the West Bank town of Salfit, on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

At the time, the military had not mentioned Hamidi was killed, but his death was then reported by Palestinian media. On Friday, the IDF named him.

“The body of the terrorist is being held by the IDF according to existing procedures, until a decision is made in accordance with the guidance from elected officials on the issue of holding the bodies of terrorists,” the IDF statement added.

The family of Hamidi, from the village of Beit Lid, close to the Israeli settlement at Einav, has refused to receive condolence visits until his body is returned.

Security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been at a standstill since May, in protest over Israel’s plans at the time to annex parts of the West Bank, a move since suspended.

Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem told AFP that in “the absence of any coordination,” they were told of Hamidi’s death by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In early September, Israel said it would withhold the bodies of all slain Palestinian assailants. Prior to the decision, Israel retained only the bodies of those from Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza.

At the time, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said the policy change was part of a broader campaign of deterrence.

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