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Palestinian families refuse Israel’s terms for releasing bodies

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Family members of Palestinians slain by Israel published a letter on Wednesday officially refusing Israel’s terms of release concerning the remains of dozens of bodies belonging to Palestinians who were shot dead during alleged, attempted or actual attacks against Israelis. Israeli authorities have demanded that families of the slain Palestinians agree to bury their dead at night, immediately after release of the remains. A number of families of those killed have refused the condition and came together to sign an official letter cementing their stance.

The letter, which was published on social media, stresses the “natural and legal right” of the families to be granted the remains of their loved ones and bury their dead in an appropriate religious and cultural manner. Families said burying their dead at night not only goes against traditions, it also prevents many family members from being able to pay their last respects by attending the funerals.

The signatories also pointed out that each family should be allotted time to request an official autopsy on their dead, particularly due to rumors that Israeli authorities have been removing certain organs before releasing remains. Autopsy reports are also used in official paperwork necessary to file cases against Israeli authorities at the International Criminal Court.

In the letter, families demanded that Palestinian leadership and the international community, as well as other national and popular institutions, take action to help pressure Israel to return the withheld bodies. On Tuesday, Israeli forces released the bodies of three Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces after allegedly attacking Israelis.

While Israeli authorities demanded that all three of the bodies would be laid to rest the day of their release, Palestinian officials notified Israel that the body of 38-year-old Baseem Salah would not be buried on Tuesday as expected, because the remains were still frozen. Salah was shot dead on Nov. 30 after an attack left an Israeli police officer wounded near Jerusalem’s Old City.

Since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory at the beginning of October, Israel has routinely held the bodies of Palestinians it says were attempting to attack Israelis. Israel’s Public Security Ministry said in mid-October that the bodies of alleged Palestinian attackers would no longer be returned to their families and would instead by buried in “secret.”

A spokesperson for the ministry said at the time the decision was made in order to stem protests that frequently accompany the funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. However, Israel’s withholding of bodies has only further stoked tensions in the occupied Palestinian territory, and Israeli authorities have since returned many of them of them to their families, on what they refer to as a “case-by-case” basis. MAAN

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