Thousands Attend Funerals in West Bank After Israel Returns Bodies of 17 Palestinians

Michaela Whitton
January 4, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) Palestine — There were harrowing scenes in the West Bank’s largest city of Hebron on Saturday, as thousands attended the joint funeral of 17 young Palestinians. Freezing rain and fog didn’t deter mourners from taking to the streets, after the Israeli authorities returned an unprecedented amount of bodies to the Hebron area.

According to Palestine News Agency, WAFA, 142 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since October. The bodies of the 17 young men released on Friday evening were among 23 released throughout the West Bank in the last week. Eighty bodies are said to have been held for prolonged periods by the Israeli regime since October.

The Israeli authorities have been handing back bodies of Palestinians on a case-by-case basis with conditions that they are buried immediately — often at night — and that funeral attendance is limited. The withholding of the bodies has further provoked tensions across the West Bank and sparked a number of demonstrations to demand the release of loved ones.

Families of those killed have refused the conditions laid out by the authorities. They claim it is their “natural and legal right” to receive the remains of loved ones, and that they should be able to bury their dead in an appropriate religious and cultural manner. Burying the dead at night goes against tradition as well as preventing many family members from being able to pay their last respects. Relatives have also demanded time for official autopsies — amid rumors that, in the past — the Israeli authorities have removed certain organs before releasing remains.

Coordinator of Human Rights Defenders, Badee Dwaik, told Anti-Media that he suspects the authorities chose this weekend to release the unprecedented amount of bodies — in the belief that bad weather would deter large numbers from attending the funeral.

If this is the case, they were wrong and the wintery conditions didn’t stop thousands of Palestinians from marching through Hebron. A general strike took place across the city in solidarity with families who were finally given the chance to bury their loved ones.

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