After holding them for weeks, Israel reportedly agreed Monday to release the bodies of East Jerusalem attackers to their families, provided that they are buried in a “calm” manner.
A total of 10 bodies belonging to East Jerusalem men that have been held by Israeli authorities are to be being released in the coming days, with one being released possibly as early as Monday night, the news site Ynet reported.
According to reports Sunday night, Israel had agreed to release the remains of Ahmad Abu Shaaban and Musab al-Ghazali, both residents of East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud neighborhood. Abu Shaaban was shot dead as he carried out a stabbing attack at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station in October. Al-Ghazali was killed while trying to stab police officers near the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem in December.
According to the reported arrangement, attackers’ families had to agree to a number of conditions, including that the funerals be small, family-only affairs held at night, and that families provide police with a cash deposit to guarantee compliance.
Israeli authorities, in particular Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, are in favor of holding on to or significantly delaying the return of terrorists’ bodies in order to prevent — or at least dampen — the mass rallies that sometimes accompany funerals of Palestinians, where participants often call for the murder of Israelis and urge new attacks. The delay is thought to lessen the significance attached to any particular attacker, and so to reduce attendance at the funerals.
The IDF and other security services, on the other hand, have often opposed this policy, saying the practice drives greater anger among Palestinians and undermines PA security forces who work with Israel to prevent the attacks.
That difference in outlooks has resulted in the bodies of terrorists from the West Bank, which is under the purview of the Defense Ministry, usually being released not long after attacks, while those of attackers from within Israel proper, under the jurisdiction of Erdan’s ministry, are held.
This reported agreement came in the wake of controversy surrounding a meeting three Arab MKs held last Thursday with relatives of Palestinian attackers killed by security forces as they were carrying out attacks, including some who had killed Israelis. In the meeting, the three lawmakers, all from the Balad party, part of the Joint (Arab) List, reportedly observed a moment of silence and demanded the return of their bodies.
“We are defending national and human dignity. It is our duty and our right,” MK Hanin Zoabi wrote in Arabic on Facebook on Friday. “The real crime is holding onto bodies. It is our duty to do our utmost to get the bodies released.”
The meeting has drawn condemnation from across the Israeli political spectrum, and has since led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to propose legislation to disqualify lawmakers from the Knesset who support terror.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.