Israel returns withheld Palestinian remains after body mix-up

israel_returns_withheld_palestinian_remains_after_body_mix_up.jpg / Israel has returned the wrong remains to families in the past, according to Palestinian rights groups. Israel had withheld the body of Khazimia through its controversial policy of holding the remains of Palestinians killed while reportedly carrying out attacks, although it had agreed to return her to her family on “humanitarian grounds”. (Majdi Mohammed / AP) Israeli officials successfully returned the remains of a 14-year-old Palestinian on Saturday after mistakenly handing back a different corpse to the teenager’s family the previous evening.

Amjad Abu Sultan was killed last month while allegedly throwing firebombs in the occupied West Bank.

Nearly a dozen Palestinians chanted “greetings to the martyr”, gathering around the body after it was handed over to the Palestinian side at an Israeli military checkpoint near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. 

They wrapped the remains with Palestinian flag and an ambulance carried the body away.

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Friday’s error, described by the army as an “unfortunate mistake”, sharpened focus on Israel’s controversial policy of withholding remains of Palestinians killed while allegedly carrying out attacks. 

Israel says the policy serves as a deterrent for future attacks and leverage for prisoner exchanges, while rights groups say the action is a form of collective punishment inflicted on grieving families.

Israel agreed to return the bodies of Abu Sultan and Isra Khazimia on Friday, citing “humanitarian grounds”. Abu Sultan was a minor when he committed his alleged attack, while Isra Khazimia was reported to have had mental health issues.

Bureaucratic mix-up  

Earlier Saturday, Amjad’s father said the family notified the army of the mistake upon receiving the body at a checkpoint near Bethlehem.

“My son was 14 years old and the other body was that of a 30 or 40-year-old,” said Ussama Abu Sultan. The identity of the other body remains unknown.

In a statement issued Friday, the Israeli army apologised for its “unfortunate mistake” and said the error is being reviewed.

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Abu Sultan, 14, was killed in October while allegedly attempting to throw firebombs at cars near an Israel settlement, the army said. Khazimia was shot dead by Israeli police in September after she allegedly attempted to stab an officer in Jerusalem’s Old City. Her body was buried Saturday in her family village of Qabatiya in the Northern West Bank.

Israel has a long record of trading prisoners and bodies with its enemies and has made clear its intentions to retrieve the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by the Palestinian militant group Hamas who rule the Gaza Strip.

Israel is currently withholding around 80 Palestinian bodies and have mixed up remains in the past, according to the Palestinian rights group The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center.

Source: AP

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