Netanyahu said to halt return of Palestinian attackers’ bodies
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Netanyahu said to halt return of Palestinian attackers’ bodies

Debate over controversial policy has led to inconsistent implementation for assailants within Israel and those who act in the West Bank

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Palestinians mourn over the bodies of three men who were killed by Israeli security forces as they carried out a deadly attack in Jerusalem, during their funeral in the village of Qabatiya near the west bank city of Jenin, February 5, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
Palestinians mourn over the bodies of three men who were killed by Israeli security forces as they carried out a deadly attack in Jerusalem, during their funeral in the village of Qabatiya near the west bank city of Jenin, February 5, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly ordered to stop the practice of returning to their families the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.

In a conversation held Sunday night with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the prime minister said the freeze will remain in place pending an overarching policy decision on the matter, according Channel 2.

Israel’s Defense Ministry has permitted the return of bodies of terrorists killed at the scene by Israeli security forces on the condition that they are buried in a low-key funeral, to avoid a further inflammation of violence.

Twenty-nine Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.

Israeli soldiers carry the body of one of the two Palestinians who were killed after wounding an Israeli soldier in a knife attack before being shot dead by troops at the entrance to the Jewish enclave of Tal Rumeida in the city center of the West Bank town of Hebron, March 24, 2016. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
Israeli soldiers carry the body of one of the two Palestinians who were killed after wounding an Israeli soldier in a knife attack before being shot dead by troops at the entrance to the Jewish enclave of Tal Rumeida in the city center of the West Bank town of Hebron, March 24, 2016. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

Israel has held on to the bodies of some attackers until families agreed not to hold funerals that could be turned into nationalist rallies — a controversial measure opposed by Arab-Israeli lawmakers and others.

At the outset of the violence, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan recommended holding on to the bodies of Palestinian assailants, claiming the funerals turn into “an exhibition of support for terror and incitement to murder.”

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.

Several Israeli authorities and officials, including Netanyahu, have expressed support for holding on to or significantly delaying the return of attackers’ bodies. The delay is thought to lessen the significance attached to any particular attacker, and so to reduce attendance at the funerals.

But Ya’alon, backed by the recommendations of the IDF and Shin Bet, have opposed this policy, saying the practice causes greater anger among Palestinians and undermines PA security forces who work with Israel to prevent attacks.

The disagreement has led to an inconsistent policy, with the bodies of terrorists who attacked Israelis in the West Bank, which is under the purview of the Defense Ministry, usually being released not long after attacks, but those of attackers who acted within Israel, where the Public Security Ministry has jurisdiction, are held for extended periods of time.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Amjad Abu Omar Sakari, who was shot dead while carrying out an attack on Israeli soldiers near the Beit El settlement, during his funeral in the village of Jamain south of Nablus, February 1, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
Palestinian mourners carry the body of Amjad Abu Omar Sakari, who was shot dead while carrying out an attack on Israeli soldiers near the Beit El settlement, during his funeral in the village of Jamain south of Nablus, February 1, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Last month, after holding them for weeks, Israel agreed to release the bodies of several East Jerusalem attackers to their families, on the condition that they be buried in a “calm” manner.

A total of 10 bodies of East Jerusalem men were released after the attackers’ families agreed 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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