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Israel court delays return of Palestinian bodies to their families

Palestinians hold banners as they gather to protest against the trial of Basel al-Araj, who was killed during a raid by Israeli soldiers at his home, and his five friends in front of the Ramallah Minor Court in Ramallah, West Bank on March 12, 2017. Their dead bodies have not been returned to their families. Basel and his friends are being judged for possession of an unregistered firearm [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians hold banners as they gather to protest against the trial of Basel al-Araj, who was killed during a raid by Israeli soldiers at his home, and his five friends in front of the Ramallah Minor Court in Ramallah, West Bank on March 12, 2017. Their dead bodies have not been returned to their families. Basel and his friends are being judged for possession of an unregistered firearm [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, yesterday agreed to the state’s request to hold a further hearing on the authorities’ withholding of Palestinian bodies, thus “delaying the scheduled repatriation of the bodies to their families”, reported the Times of Israel.

In December, the court ruled that Israel could no longer withhold Palestinian bodies “without legislation regulating the practice”, giving the government six months to pass such a law.

Now, Israeli Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut has ruled that the state could delay the return of the bodies until a new ruling is reached. The court also agreed to expand the bench for the new hearing, which will be held in June, from three judges to seven.

The Times of Israel said Israeli authorities “regularly” withhold the bodies of alleged Palestinian assailants, “with the intent of using them in negotiations to retrieve the bodies of Israeli soldiers”.

The Knesset gave preliminary approval in late January to a bill allowing Israel to withhold the bodies, “on the grounds that their funerals may be used to encourage further attacks”.

Read: Israel edges closer to legalising deducting prisoners’ salaries from PA taxes

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