Israel to return 91 bodies on Thursday 31May12 May 31, 2012

Ma’an News Agency  -  30 May 2012

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority civil affairs minister said late Tuesday that Israel will return the bodies of 91 Palestinians buried in an Israeli cemetery on Thursday.

Hussein al-Sheikh released a list of names agreed with Israel, whose remains will now be handed to the PA in what the minister described as the first stage of the return of 100 Palestinians.

The hand-over of Palestinian remains was promised on May 14 by Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a “gesture” to President Mahmoud Abbas.

The decision was announced two days after a meeting between Abbas and Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho in Ramallah, but Gendelman said it was part of a deal to end a mass hunger strike by prisoners.

Al-Sheikh did not specify when a second stage of the deal to hand over bodies would take place, but said an official ceremony will be held in the presidential compound in Ramallah to honor the fallen Palestinians on Thursday.

Last July, Israel agreed to release the remains of 84 Palestinians killed since 1967, and the PA civil affairs ministry released a list naming those who would be returned.

But Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak intervened and blocked the transfer hours after Israel’s military confirmed that Netanyahu had approved the return of the bodies.

Hundreds of Palestinians are currently interred in numbered, rather than named, graves in Israel.

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