Israel returns bodies of four Palestinian teens killed in alleged stabbing attempt

Published January 9th, 2016 - 11:00 GMT

Israeli authorities on Friday released the bodies of four Palestinian youths shot dead following alleged stabbing attempts in the southern occupied West Bank the night before, local officials said.

The bodies were released to the district coordination office in Hebron in the presence of Palestinian liaison officials and representatives of the slain Palestinians' families.

The bodies were then taken in four ambulances to al-Ahli hospital in Hebron where District Attorney Alaa al-Tamimi said they would undergo an autopsy "to document the crimes committed against the four martyrs."

A joint funeral for the four Palestinians, all from the town of Sair northeast of Hebron, is set to take place on Saturday morning.

The release of their bodies came after a day of clashes across the occupied Palestinian territory, including in the bordering town of Beit Einun, where one of the four Palestinians was shot dead.

Israeli forces were reported to have fired live and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters, with at least two hit by rubber-coated steel bullets and many more Palestinians suffering excessive tear gas inhalation.

Locals said Israeli forces had closed off all entrances to the town, preventing anyone from exiting except for emergencies.

Late Thursday, the town of Sair also saw a heavy Israeli army presence, with soldiers stationed at all entrances to the town.

Three of the Palestinians killed on Friday were shot dead at the Gush Etzion junction after they allegedly attempted to stab Israeli soldiers in the area.

They were later identified as cousins, Ahmad Salim Abd al-Majid Kawazba, 19, Alaa Abed Muhammad Kawazba, 19, and Muhannad Ziyad Kawazba, 18.

Shortly afterward, 16-year-old Khalil Muhammad al-Shalaldah, also from Sair, was shot dead by Israeli forces after he allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack at the Beit Einun junction northeast of Hebron.

No Israelis were injured in either incident.

The fast return of the Palestinians' bodies marks a reversal in Israeli policy, which since the beginning of October had been to hold the bodies of alleged Palestinian attackers for long periods of time.

Israel's Public Security Ministry said in mid-October that the bodies of alleged Palestinians attackers would no longer be returned to their families and would instead by buried in "secret."

A spokesperson for the ministry said at the time the decision was made in order to stem protests that frequently accompany the funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

However, Israel's withholding of bodies has only raised tensions across the occupied Palestinian territory, and Israeli authorities have since returned many of them of them to their families, on what they refer to as a "case-by-case" basis.

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