Israel Returns Bodies of Palestinian Terrorists
2,000 Palestinians welcome transfer of 91 bodies with celebration
In a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to renew peace talks, the Israeli government transferred the remains of 91 Palestinian terrorists on Thursday, according to Ynetnews.
The bodies had been buried in coffins in Israel but were dug up to be transferred, CTV reported. Salem Khileh, the Palestinian official in charge of the transfer said that the remains were handed over by Israel in the Jordan Valley before 79 bodies were taken to Ramallah and the other 12 to the Gaza Strip.
All 91 had been carrying out attacks on Israeli targets when killed, said Palestinian officials. At least one of these dates back to 1975, when seven terrorists carried out an attack on the Savot Hotel in Tel Aviv.
“We hope that this humanitarian gesture will serve both as a confidence-building measure and help get the peace process back on track,” said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.
“Israel is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever,” Regev added
But Abbas has given no indication that the PA will resume peace talks. The Palestinian president has refused to return to negotiations with Israel until it ceases construction of Jewish settlements in parts of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
The transfer was welcomed with a ceremony in Ramallah, attended by Abbas, where the 79 coffins were covered in Palestinian flags.
Around 2,000 people, including family members of the terrorists, attended the ceremony held at the PA’s head offices, according to Ynet. Other Hamas members and some prisoners released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal in October also attended.
“Until now, the martyrs were numbers to the Zionists and now they will revert to names of heroes,” one Palestinian said
The seven terrorists involved in the 1975 attack were given a special honour, as each of their coffins were carried by six members of the presidential guard, before Abbas laid a wreath on the coffins and volley shots were fired by the guards of honour.
Meanwhile in Gaza, a separate ceremony took place to honour the remaining 12 terrorists, which was also attended by Islamic Jihad fighters and families holding framed pictures of their dead relatives, according to CTV.
Women threw rice and sugar over the coffins, draped with Palestinian flags, while Hamas police officers fired 21 shots into the air in salute.
As the vehicle carrying the body of a suicide bomber arrived, two armed men wearing black uniforms and bandanas kissed the forehead of the terrorist’s mother. Her 21-year-old son, Ramzi Obaied had killed 24 Israelis in a 1996 attack in Tel Aviv.
“My son was a hero,” said the woman, who identified herself as Um Hidar. “The enemy feared him even after his death, for they kept his body.”
The body of Mohammed Zaoul, who killed four Israelis in a 2004 suicide attack in Jerusalem, was greeted by his wife, Mirvat. She said she thought her 11-year-old son would be upset by the arrival of his father’s remains.
“But he was happy. He said, ‘I’m going to visit his grave every day and put a flower there for him.’”