Thousands gather in Hebron streets for funeral of 17 Palestinians
Mourners carry the body of one of the 17 Palestinians returned by Israeli authorities on January 1, 2016. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
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Preparations were underway in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron Saturday morning for the burial of 17 bodies of Palestinians returned by Israeli authorities the night before.
Relatives and friends of the Palestinians whose bodies were returned gathered in the early hours of morning at Hebron's al-Ahli hospital in order to retrieve bodies from the morgue and bring them home in preparation for the funeral.
Hebron District Attorney Alaa Tamimi told Ma’an that since the bodies were transferred Friday evening, he oversaw examinations of the bodies by forensic doctors, also carried out in the presence of Palestinian Attorney-General, Abd al-Ghani Uweiwi.
Tamimi said that the autopsies showed that all 17 had been “executed” without being given any medical treatment after being shot.
Amid accusations that Israel had harvested organs from the bodies of Palestinians killed while suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis, Tamimi said: “Autopsies showed that the Israeli occupation hasn’t operated on the bodies or stolen any organs."
A spokesperson representing Hebron families whose relatives have been killed by Israeli forces, Raed al-Atrash, told Ma’an that 14 of the bodies would be buried in the city’s Al-Shuhada (Martyrs) Cemetery in the al-Sheikh quarter after funeral prayers are performed.
Omar Zaaqiq -- killed Nov. 27 after running his vehicle into a group of Israelis -- will be buried in his hometown of Beit Ummar, Hamza al-Amla -- killed on Oct. 20 after allegedly attempted to run over Israelis at a bus stop in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc -- will be buried in Beit Ula, and Fadi Hasan al-Froukh -- killed Nov. 1 after being suspected for stabbing an Israeli soldier -- will be buried in Sair.
A general strike was announced in Hebron in solidarity with the families and to encourage attendance of the joint funeral in Hebron city.
The 17 bodies are among over 80 to be held by Israeli authorities since October, according to the UN Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.
Amid a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territories in October, Israel’s security cabinet passed a decision to withhold the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.
The policy has not been carried out with such frequency since the Second Intifada and sparked major backlash among Palestinian communities, who began staging demonstrations demanding the bodies be returned.
During a Knesset meeting on Nov. 5, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that “holding onto bodies is in itself not a deterrent to potential terrorists,” announcing that bodies would be returned on a “case-by-case basis.”
Bodies have since been handed over conditionally, with Israeli authorities demanding the bodies be buried immediately following their handover and that funerals be limited in attendance.
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