Israel to hand over bodies of Palestinian militants

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 04, 2011 4:13 PM
Israel to hand over bodies of Palestinian militants

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has agreed to hand over bodies of 84 militants to the Palestinian Authority, a statement from the Israeli military said on Monday.

Israeli media said the transfer was a rare gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan which will begin in August. An Israeli government spokesman declined to comment.

Palestinian media published a list of militants from the West Bank and Gaza killed between 1974 and 2006 that they expected to be handed over, including several suicide bombers who carried out attacks in Israeli cities.

The Israeli statement said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the transfer "a few months ago" and a spokesman said coordination with the Palestinians had begun but that the exact date of the transfer was not yet set.

Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the Palestinian civil affairs authority, said he expected release of the bodies within days, after a year of negotiations with Israel on the transfer.

"The Palestinian Authority will receive 84 bodies as a first phase within the coming few days after completion of full medical procedures," Sheikh said in comments published by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Sheikh said a further 102 bodies would be transferred at a later date.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last year and a U.S. push to revive negotiations has not yet achieved a breakthrough. Abbas has reaffirmed that he plans to win Palestinians U.N. recognition in September.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Alison Williams)