Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Monday night ordered to stop the transfer of the bodies of 84 Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority, despite earlier confirmation the transfer would go through. Barak made his decision after a report that two of the bodies to be returned were of the Awadallah brothers, former leaders of the Hamas military wing, who were killed by Israeli soldiers near Hebron in September 1998. The defense minister explained his decision, saying it was important to weigh the repercussions of such a transfer on a future prisoner exchange deal.
According to Haaretz, Israel has so far refused to hand over the bodies of the Awadallah brothers, since they were being held as a bargaining chip for a future deal on captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
Barak's order came despite the fact that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently approved that the bodies of Palestinians buried in Israel will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.