Israel to return bodies of Palestinian fighters killed since 1967
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel has agreed to return the bodies of Palestinian fighters killed since 1967 to their families, Palestinian Authority Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein Ash-Sheikh said Monday.
Until now Israel has refused to return the bodies to their families. The deceased have been kept in what Israel calls "enemy fighters' cemeteries," known to Palestinians as "cemeteries of numbers."
Ash-Sheikh told Ma'an radio that the agreement to release the bodies was reached "after long and arduous negotiations" with Israeli authorities.
The ministry released a list of 84 Palestinians whose bodies would be returned. Their identities have been confirmed by Palestinian forensic experts.
Most of those listed were young men killed in their teens or early twenties, many of whom were killed during the Second Intifada, or uprising. Of those to be returned, Amir Ali Abdullah was the youngest when he was killed aged 15 in Tel Aviv in 2004.
The bodies of four Palestinian women will also be returned, according to the ministry.
President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior officials will attend a farewell ceremony for the deceased, and the bodies will be returned to families, Ash-Sheikh said.
The government will arrange to deliver the bodies to other countries where necessary, he added.
Ash-Sheikh said 102 bodies were yet to be identified, but Palestinian forensic experts would be sent to cemeteries in Israel to perform DNA tests. The bodies would be delivered as soon as they were identified, he said.
An Israeli government spokesman could not confirm the report.
Israeli news site Ynet said "security elements" confirmed that talks had been held, but said no agreement had been reached.