Israel challenges court over return of Palestinian corpses

An Israeli soldier walks past an armoured personnel carrier as troops are on alert along the border with the Gaza Strip on Nov 13, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli ministers on Monday (Dec 18) challenged a Supreme Court ruling that the bodies of Palestinian assailants killed during attacks must be released for burial and not used as bargaining chips.

A government statement said members of the security Cabinet decided Thursday's ruling by Israel's highest court was "unacceptable" and asked it to hold a fresh hearing on the issue.

The government announced last year it would not return bodies unless Palestinians in Gaza agreed to release the remains of two Israeli soldiers believed to have been killed in a 2014 war in Gaza.

Last week, responding to a motion filed by families of nine dead Palestinians, the court said Israeli law does not allow the bodies to be held, but gave the government six months to enact new legislation or hand the corpses to their families.

Monday's meeting of senior ministers turned down both options.

"Ministers made it clear that the bodies of the terrorists would not be returned and that the principles set out in the majority opinion of the judges were unacceptable," the government statement said.

"Legislative proceedings will not be advanced at this stage," until the court responds to the demand for a new hearing, it added.

The issue gained fresh traction last month when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled that Israel would not repatriate the bodies of five Islamic Jihad militants killed when the army blew up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into its territory.

"We have a simple rule: Whoever attacks us, we attack them. Secondly, we don't give free gifts," he said.

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