Ramallah: Israel is to give the Palestinian Authority the bodies of 84 Palestinians killed in the conflict between the sides since the 1967 Six Day War, officials said on Monday.
Palestinian officials first reported the deal and it was confirmed later by the Israeli military who said that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the transfer of 84 bodies from the Jordan Valley cemetery of enemy combatants to the Palestinian Authority”.
The Army said the two sides had been holding talks to determine the “execution of the transfer and its exact timing”.
They gave no details on the identities of the dead, but Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said that the remains are those of Palestinians killed in armed conflict since the 1967 war when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as east Jerusalem.
Israel’s public radio said many of them carried out suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, such as a 2003 restaurant bombing in Haifa in which 21 people were killed, aside from the bomber.
Security officials confirmed that talks were under way over a release of bodies as a “goodwill gesture” to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, but that so far there had been no agreement over whose remains were to be repatriated.
The bodies are currently interred in numbered, rather than named, graves in Israel and will have to be identified before they can be returned to their families.
“After many calls and negotiations with the Israeli side for more than a year, Israel agreed to release the bodies of martyrs,” Sheikh said, using a term used to cover those killed in armed clashes or in suicide attacks.
Israeli media reports described the bodies as those of “terrorists”.
Sheikh said a first batch of 84 would be handed over “in the next few days, after DNA checks”.
Salem Khala, a Palestinian campaigner for the return of the militants’ remains, said a total of 334 Palestinian combatants were currently buried in Israeli graveyards. Zeenews