Israel refuses to return Palestinian bodies

Israel is refusing to return the bodies of Palestinians killed during a month-old surge of violence unless the Palestinian side agrees to keep the funerals “modest”, the Israeli defence minister said yesterday.
Israel refuses to return Palestinian bodies

Yesterday, a Palestinian tried to stab an Israeli soldier during disturbances near Hebron, in the occupied West Bank and was shot dead, the army said. Some reports disputed this, saying the Palestinian was stone throwing.

Later in the afternoon a driver rammed three Israeli paramilitary border policemen with his car before fleeing the scene, police said. The three, whose lives were not thought to be in danger, were taken to hospital and forces mounted a search for the driver.

Since October 1, at least 66 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire. Of those, 39 were assailants armed mainly with knives, Israel said, while others were shot in violent anti-Israel protests. Many were teenagers.

Eleven Israelis have been killed in stabbings and shootings by Palestinians motivated in part by Muslim agitation at stepped-up Jewish visits to a contested Jerusalem shrine.

Israel, which in the past has kept the bodies of slain militants as a punitive measure or to trade for the remains of its soldiers, has returned eight corpses of alleged Palestinian assailants for burial since last week.

Palestinian monitors say Israel is still holding 21 bodies, a tally not immediately confirmed by Israeli officials. The Israeli handovers have raised heckles among some rightists in prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition and were acknowledged as a reversal of policy yesterday by defence minister Moshe Yaalon.

Yaalon said the security cabinet had initially intended to withhold the bodies but reassessed that because of the resentment it stirred among Palestinians.


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