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Israel to legalize withholding bodies of Palestinians killed by regime forces

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Mourners carry the body of Khaled Taeh during his funeral in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on February 7, 2018. He was shot dead by Israeli forces at the entrance to a nearby settlement.

Israel’s parliament (Knesset) is expected to approve a controversial bill that allows police to withhold the bodies of Palestinians killed by the regime’s forces and refuse to hand them over to their families for burial.

The bill, co-sponsored by right-wing Israeli lawmakers Anat Berko and Bezalel Smotrich, has passed its first reading, and will be put to vote in two more readings later on Wednesday.

If approved, the law will authorize police to determine the conditions under which the funerals for Palestinian victims will be held. 

The law would be enforced in Israeli cities and in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds, but not in the West Bank.

Under the law, Israeli police could issue an order to postpone the handing over of bodies until those organizing the funerals promise to meet certain conditions.

The conditions include a limit on the number of participants at the funeral, a ban on the participation of certain individuals as well as a specified time, site and route for the procession.

Mourners cry during the funeral of Nimr al-Jamal, who was shot dead in September 2017 by Israeli forces, in the West Bank village of Beit Surik near Jerusalem al-Quds on February 17, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

In special cases, police could even demand the posting of a bond to guarantee that certain conditions are carried out during the burial.

The police would also be permitted to delay the transferring of a body if it deems that the funeral could lead to a loss of life or injury.

Back in January, Israeli lawmaker Jamal Zahalka described the act of preventing someone’s burial as shameful.

“All cultures see burying the dead as a commandment, and preventing a burial is an act of villainy. You are giving Jews a bad name,” he said.

Israel dramatically increased the practice of refusing to hand over Palestinians' bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied lands in October 2015.

In July 2017, however, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that police do not have the legal authority to delay the returning of bodies to their families.

In a joint statement in March 2016, the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, and the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) condemned the Tel Aviv regime’s practice as “a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture.”

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