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Palestinians in Hebron demand Israel return bodies of family members killed by the IDF

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On the evening of January 1st Israeli authorities returned the bodies of 14 Palestinians from Hebron city who were killed while suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis during the wave of tension which had started in October 2015. These 14 bodies were buried the following day, but others are yet to be returned to their families. “They have no right to keep our children, we want them back now”, the father of one of the young men killed tells me.

Since October 2015, Israel’s security cabinet policy established that the bodies of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces who were considered to be carrying out attacks on Israeli civilians and military personnel would not be returned to their families. Put forward by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to minimize the risk of politicized mass funerals and incitement to murder, as well as to deter attacks against Israelis, this policy has been described by the Palestinian public and by human rights organizations such as Addameer and The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre as collective punishment for innocent family and community members.

These family and community members who are already suffering the loss of their loved ones, cannot have a funeral,  mourn in dignity or process and accept the idea of loss. Some of these families retain the hope that they are alive. “I have a video of my son bleeding on the ground. He is moving. I do not know if he is dead”, a bereft man admits.

According to media information, the Israeli government is demanding that concerned families agree to the bodies of their relatives be returned after nightfall and buried immediately,only in the presence of a few family members, allegedly to minimize the risk of public and media attention during funerals.

Palestinians protesting against new policy approved by Israel’s security cabinet (Photo: EAPPI)

Palestinians protesting against new policy approved by Israel’s security cabinet (Photo: EAPPI)

Most of the these families have so far refused these conditions and called on Israel to allow them to carry out the burial of their loved ones on their own terms. Families say that the terms imposed by Israel are contrary to Islamic burial customs, which require bodies to be buried during daylight hours. Moreover, these terms deny families the time needed to request and carry out an autopsy, whilst also preventing extended family and community members from paying their last respects to the deceased. “We want to bury our children according to our religion and culture. We want all our families and friends to attend the funerals. We want them to be returned during the day and to be checked by Palestinian doctors. Not accepting the bodies at these conditions is our way of resisting occupation,” a local Palestinian explains.

Withholding the bodies of those killed, not allowing the deceased to be buried according to the requirements of the religion to which they belonged and not notifying families of the fate of their relatives or the location of their grave violate Rules 115, 116 and 117 of customary international humanitarian law, as well as Article 17 of the First Geneva Convention, Article 20 of the Second Geneva Convention, Article 120 of the Third Geneva Convention, Article 130 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and Article 32 of Additional Protocol 1. Collective punishment and any form of reprisal against somebody for an offense he or she has not personally committed also breaches Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Human rights organisations such as Addameer and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre call on the Israeli authorities to enable the immediate and unconditional return of the bodies which are still withheld within Israel, in line with its obligations under international law, and state that failure to act in such a way constitutes collective punishment.

The unconditional, although delayed, handing over of 14 bodies on January 1st gave their families the opportunity to mourn in dignity. Many others continue to wait. It is time for their punishment to end.

Sabrina Tucci is currently in Hebron for a placement as a human rights monitor as part of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Sabrina Tucci

Sabrina Tucci is a human rights professional with over 8 years’ professional experience in national and international human rights organizations and is employed at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International where she specializes on the death penalty.

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11 Responses

  1. Tom Suarez on January 22, 2016, 12:09 pm

    There has long been suspicion that Israel’s historic refusal to return the bodies of slain Palestinians is tied to organ harvesting. That suspicion remains justified as long as it behaves thus.

    • Bumblebye on January 23, 2016, 7:30 am

      I recently watched a video (but can’t remember where) of the director of Israel’s skin bank explaining that almost none comes from Jewish Israelis. She wouldn’t expand on where it *did* come from.

  2. Kris on January 22, 2016, 1:10 pm

    There is a history here:

    (AP) JERUSALEM – Israel has admitted that in the 1990s, its forensic pathologists harvested organs from dead bodies, including Palestinians, without permission of their families.

    The issue emerged with publication of an interview with the then-head of Israel’s Abu Kabir forensic institute, Dr. Jehuda Hiss. The interview was conducted in 2000 by an American academic, who released it because of a huge controversy last summer over an allegation by a Swedish newspaper that Israel was killing Palestinians in order to harvest their organs. Israel hotly denied the charge.

    Parts of the interview were broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 TV over the weekend. In it, Hiss said, “We started to harvest corneas … Whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family.”

    The Channel 2 report said that in the 1990s, forensic specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.

    In a response to the TV report, the Israeli military confirmed that the practice took place. “This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer,” the military said in a statement quoted by Channel 2.

    “This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer,” the military said. Uh, huh. From November 05, 2015:

    In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, dated Tuesday, Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour decried what he called “Israel’s persistent aggression against the Palestinian people.

    “After returning the seized bodies of the Palestinians killed by the occupying forces through October, and following medical examinations, it has been reported that the bodies were returned with missing corneas and other organs, further confirming past reports about organ harvesting by the occupying Power from the Palestinian victims of its brutality,” Mansour wrote.

  3. just on January 22, 2016, 3:10 pm

    Meanwhile, Fatou Bensouda is fiddling while Palestine burns…

    Thanks for this article and for your work, Sabrina. Great stuff @ the link you provided, too.

    (Thanks for your comments, Tom and Kris.)

    • Kris on January 22, 2016, 5:13 pm

      Thanks, just! I’m astonished that there are no shrill claims of “blood libel!” yet.

      It would be interesting to know how transplant statistics are trending in Israel, with this steady supply of bodies lately. Practically no Jewish Israelis become organ donors, so this new supply of organs must be a God-send, as far as Jewish Israelis are concerned.

      Maybe one day Israel will be promoting itself as the place to go for organ transplants. Just as Israel is the place to buy weapons that have been “field tested” on human beings.

      • Talkback on January 23, 2016, 3:36 am

        Yehuda Hiss is still on Israel’s payroll.

        Justice Ministry is paying disgraced pathologist to be expert witness

        Needless to say that he was never jailed which says everything one has to know about Israel’s complicity in illegaly harvesting organs.

  4. Mayhem on January 23, 2016, 8:13 am

    It is time for their punishment to end

    It’s all very simple. Stop the incitement to violence, stem the attacks, no punishment necessary.

    • diasp0ra on January 23, 2016, 9:02 am

      No incitement is necessary to make people hate their occupier.

      Pull out your troops and settlers, start taking serious steps on the ground to give actually sovereignty and a decent standard of life for Palestinians and see how the attacks drop.

      And don’t bring up Gaza. It’s still under occupation, you don’t need troops on the ground for a territory to be occupied and Israel has effective control over Gaza still.

      • Kris on January 23, 2016, 3:04 pm

        diasp0ra, maybe Mayhem means to say,

        “Stop the incitement by Jewish Israeli officials to violence, stem the IDF and Jewish “settler” attacks on Palestinians and their property, as well as thefts of Palestinian land , impose a policy of no tolerance of abuses of international law, punishment of Israel for decades of crimes against humanity is necessary.

    • talknic on January 23, 2016, 6:30 pm

      @ Mayhem “It’s all very simple. Stop the incitement to violence…”

      That’d be Israel illegally acquiring non-Israeli territory, illegal Israeli settlers etc. Right?

    • Talkback on January 24, 2016, 3:06 am

      Mayhem: “It’s all very simple. Stop the incitement to violence, stem the attacks, no punishment necessary.”

      But how can the Apartheid State maintain an occupation and disposess or expell the occupied without violence, collective punishment and terrorism?

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