Israel refuses to return remains of killed Palestinians to families

The government approves a law proposed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz. All bodies will now be detained, not just those belonging to extremist factions (Hamas). Human rights activists and NGOs criticize the provision, calling it "problematic" and guided by "motives for revenge".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Israel no longer intends to return the bodies of Palestinians killed to their families, in the context of attacks on their fellow citizens or their assets and property. The measure, voted on yesterday evening during a meeting of the Council of Ministers, will affect not only the militants of the extremist group Hamas but all the perpetrators of anti-Israeli attacks and violence.

Human rights activists and NGOs have attacked Israel in the past for its policy of "kidnapping" corpses. Yesterday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz asked that this practice, used as a deterrent, be extended "to all Palestinians" regardless of their political affiliation, not just to those who appear to be members of fundamentalist groups or fighters.

“The refusal to return the bodies of terrorists - emphasized Benny Gantz - is part of our commitment to maintain the safety of Israeli citizens, and to bring home [the bodies of killed soldiers]. I hope our enemy understands and internalizes the message well”.

The human rights association Adalah strongly attacks the Israeli government's decision, "The Israeli security cabinet’s decision to withhold the bodies of Palestinians is extremely problematic and is driven clearly by motivations for vengeance,”a statement read. “The policy of using human bodies as bargaining chips violates the most basic universal values and international law, which prohibit cruel and inhuman treatment.”

Israel first implemented in 1967 the practice of holding the remains of Palestinians killed in the context of attacks; in recent years hundreds of corpses have been retained and never returned, still kept in morgues or buried in shabby graves in what has become famous as the cemetery of numbers. A practice in clear violation of international law, such as the Geneva Convention according to which the parties involved in an armed conflict must honourably bury the dead of the enemy front.

The Israeli government has repeatedly stated that it wants to keep the bodies to use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the Palestinians; in some cases, restitution to families of origin takes place following legal action. Israeli pacifists and human rights NGOs have called this "post-mortem arrest" a practice unique to Israel.