BEIRUT

Middle East

Israel returns remains of Hamas militants killed in 1998

A Palestinian child stands in front of the coffins of two Palestinian militants from the Islamic Hamas movement, brothers Adel and Imad Awadallah, killed in an Israeli army operation in 1998, during their funeral procession at al-Beireh Mosque in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

RAMALLAH: More than 1,000 people gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah Wednesday for the funerals of two Hamas militants Israel killed in 1998, whose remains had just been returned.

Israel transferred the remains of Imad Awadallah, 48, and his 46-year-old brother Adel, to Palestinian officials at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank overnight, Palestinian activists said.

They also handed over the bodies of two others, including a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a Jerusalem restaurant in 2001 during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising).

The Palestinian National Campaign to Return the Bodies of the Martyrs says Israel still holds the bodies of some 29 Palestinians in a special cemetery for "enemy combattants" in the Jordan Valley.

The exact circumstances of the deaths of the wanted Awadallah brothers, who were killed by Israeli troops in 1998 near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, have never been revealed.

In July 2011, the then defence minister Ehud Barak reneged on an agreement to hand over the bodies of some 84 militants killed since 1967, including the Awadallah brothers.

The defence ministry said such a transfer was inappropriate in light of the captivity at the time of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was snatched by Gaza militants in 2006.

Shalit was released later in 2011 in exchange for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

 

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