RAMALLAH – Families of Palestinian fighters killed in action Thursday said they were anxiously waiting for the release of dozens of bodies Israel has been holding, some since 1967 in order to give them proper burial.
Speaking to the press, families said they want their children to be able to visit the graves of their fathers and put flowers on them, according to Mervat Zuhoul, whose husband was killed during a military operation against Israelis 10 years ago but his body has been kept in an unknown cemetery in Israel since then.
Israel said last week that it will release corpses of 100 Palestinians held in unmarked cemeteries in Israel as a good will gesture to the Palestinian Authority.
However, Issam Arouri, director of Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, whose organization started in 2008 a campaign to get Israel to return corpses of Palestinians back to their families, said that the release of the corpses is not a favor to the Palestinians, rather a right.
“Israel will not be doing us a favor by releasing the remains,” he told the press conference. “It is our right to have the bodies of our dead children and bury them in our cemeteries,” he added.
He said Israel keeps the bodies in order to later trade them in any exchange with bodies of Israelis.
Palestinians believe there are at least 350 bodies buried in the Israeli cemeteries, which have been declared a closed military zone, but that only 300 are known while the rest have been missing.
Israel previously released two corpses following a petition to the Israeli High Court by their Palestinian families.
No date as to when, how many and who from the remains Israel is planning to return to their families, but activists said they expect the process to start next week.