Israel will return the bodies of a number of Palestinians held in a cemetery in Israel within a week, the PA minister of civil affairs said Wednesday.
Hasan al-Sheikh told Ma’an his ministry would ensure the bodies were exhumed according to religious rites, and would deliver them to their families for proper burials.
Israeli military rabbis began exhuming bodies from a cemetery in the Jordan Valley on Wednesday morning, the ultra-orthodox news site Kikar HaShabbat reported.
Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Ma’an on May 14 that Israel had agreed to hand over the bodies of 100 Palestinians as a “gesture” to President Mahmoud Abbas.
The decision was announced two days after a meeting between Abbas and Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho in Ramallah, but Gendelman said it was part of a deal to end a mass hunger strike by prisoners.
Last July, Israel agreed to release the remains of 84 Palestinians killed since 1967, and the PA civil affairs ministry released a list naming those who would be returned.
But Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak intervened and blocked the transfer hours after Israel’s military confirmed that Netanyahu had approved the return of the bodies.
Hundreds of Palestinians are currently interred in numbered, rather than named, graves in Israel.