Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday overturned a decision to return the bodies of 84 Palestinian militants killed since 1967 to their families, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
Barak overturned the decision hours after Israel’s military said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had approved the request to give back the bodies following “extensive staff work and coordination with all relevant authorities.”
Palestinian Authority Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein Ash-Sheikh had announced Monday morning that Israel would hand over the bodies. The ministry released a list of the names of those would be returned.
Ash-Sheikh told Ma’an radio that the two sides came to an agreement to return the bodies following “long and arduous negotiations” with Israeli authorities.
Israeli security officials told AFP that the release of the bodies was a “goodwill gesture” to President Mahmoud Abbas.
Haaretz reported that Barak canceled the deal because Hamas militants were among those whose bodies would be returned. The defense minister decided their remains could be used as bargaining chips to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the report said.
Most of those to be returned were young men killed in their teens or early 20s, many of them during the Second Intifada, or uprising. Amir Ali Abdullah was the youngest when he was killed aged 15 in Tel Aviv in 2004. The bodies of four Palestinian women were among those to be returned.
Salem Khala, a Palestinian campaigner for the return of the militants’ remains, said a total of 334 Palestinian militants were currently buried in Israeli graveyards.