Bodies of Palestinian Terrorists to Be Returned

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel is readying the return of the bodies of a number of Palestinian terrorists, including those of suicide bombers, to their families early next month, and military officials maintain the decision is unrelated to the renewed peace talks, The Times of Israel reports.

The number was not yet known. Israeli media reports have given estimates ranging from a few to a few dozen, while the government has declined comment.

The transfer follows an Israeli High Court acceptance of a petition filed by Palestinian families.

Included among the bodies reportedly to be released are those of suicide bombers Mahmoud Qawasmeh, who killed 17 people on a Haifa bus in March, 2003; Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, who killed 15 people in Yerushalayim’s Sbarro restaurant in August 2001; and Mohammed Shahin, who killed four people at a yeshivah in Otniel in December 2002.

In August, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a qualified denial of an imminent return of terrorist remains. “At this stage Israel has absolutely no plans to release terrorists’ bodies,” an official said, though apparently there were plans for a later stage.