Israel on Wednesday returned the body of an East Jerusalem Palestinian terrorist killed while carrying out a shooting attack in the capital earlier this year, as the practice of withholding the remains of slain attackers comes under increased scrutiny by the courts.
In accordance with preconditions set by police, 21-year-old Muhammad Jamal al-Kalouti was buried in a private ceremony in the Bab al-Zahra cemetery in East Jerusalem shortly after midnight.
Kalouti, from Kafr Aqab in East Jerusalem, shot at a Jerusalem light rail car on March 9 outside the Old City’s New Gate, seriously wounding one Israeli.
Israeli officials argue the funerals for deceased attackers — who were killed as they stabbed, shot, or rammed Israelis with cars over the past 10 months — often turn into mass rallies in support of Palestinian terrorism, and therefore withhold the bodies until relatives agree to hold subdued burials that don’t include calls for further attacks.
Kalouti’s late-night burial was attended by 30 people under heavy guard from Israeli security forces.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority agency dealing with prisoners announced that Kalouti, who critically wounded an Israeli man in the March 9 shooting, was to be the first of seven slain East Jerusalem Palestinian attackers to be returned to their families for burial.
The decision was announced less than a month after the High Court of Justice instructed the Israel Police to explain why it was withholding the bodies of several East Jerusalem Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks, and had not returned the remains to their families.
The July 25 ruling came in response to a petition filed by several East Jerusalem families who said Israeli authorities have refused to return the bodies of their relatives despite their having agreed to the condition that they be buried in a low-profile funeral.
Earlier in August, Israel agreed to release the body of Bahaa Allyan, who was killed while carrying out a deadly attack on a Jerusalem bus in which three Israelis were murdered.
Israel Police summoned Bahaa’s father and offered to release the body if the family agreed to bury him in a private, late-night ceremony with only 15 people in attendance, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported.
According to the Allyan’s lawyer the East Jerusalem family declined to sign the agreement, citing the small number of mourners allowed to attend.
Israel’s practice of withholding the bodies of deceased Palestinian attackers has been implemented inconsistently, particularly as the remains of terrorists who carry out attacks in the West Bank are under the purview of the Defense Ministry, while those killed within Israel proper are under the jurisdiction of the Public Security Ministry.
The issue has become a sore point with Palestinians. Posters of the dead are plastered on walls in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and residents hold frequent demonstrations calling for the release of the bodies.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said there was no justification for the practice, and said the heads of the various security agencies have determined there are no “security conditions” that “justify the total prevention of returning bodies.”
Since October, 35 Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence. At least 214 Palestinians have been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.
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