Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak halted a planned transfer of the remains of 84 Palestinians while the government tried to confirm whether they’d been involved in terrorist attacks and debates whether it could hurt efforts to free a captive soldier.
The move, announced by the army and the Palestinian Authority yesterday, triggered criticism that it may damage Israel’s bargaining position in talks to free Gilad Shalit, a soldier captured by Palestinian militants five years ago from a tank outside the Gaza Strip.
“I stopped this dialogue on transferring the bodies in order to be sure that we’re not handing over bodies that shouldn’t be handed over, both for reasons connected to Shalit and other considerations,” Barak said today in an e-mailed statement. The defense minister later released a second statement with the names of 10 Palestinians on the list whose bodies he said would not be transferred.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been negotiating for years over hundreds of corpses of Palestinian militants that the Israeli army keeps at a temporary burial site in the West Bank. Hamas, which controls Gaza, has been negotiating with Israel indirectly over the past five years to free Shalit in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinians from Israeli jails. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.
List of Remains
Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib said in a telephone interview that the Israeli Defense Ministry had handed over a list of the 84 bodies and the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs had announced the remains would be transferred. He said the Palestinian ministry hadn’t been formally notified by Israel that the transfer had been halted.
Among the remains that won’t be released are those of Hanadi Jaradat, a female suicide bomber whose 2003 attack on a restaurant in Haifa left 21 Israelis dead, Barak said. The remains of seven members of Hamas and two other Palestinians who carried out attacks that killed large numbers of Israelis also won’t be handed over, he said.
Further negotiations on the fate of the remains wouldn’t include those who came from Gaza, Barak said. A list of the 84 Palestinians published by the Ma’an news agency includes 11 people described as Gaza residents, with the rest coming from the West Bank.
To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Ferziger in Jerusalem at jferziger@Bloomberg.net.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com.