Palestinians say Israel to return 'martyrs' bodies

AFP , Monday 4 Jul 2011

Israel will release the bodies of 84 Palestinians killed following the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem

A Palestinian minister on Monday said Israel is to release the bodies of 84 Palestinians killed in the conflict between the sides since the 1967 Six Day War.

The remains are those of Palestinians killed in armed conflict following the 1967 war when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as east Jerusalem.

They are currently interred in numbered, rather than named, graves in Israel and will have to be identified before they can be returned to their families.

"After many calls and negotiations with the Israeli side for more than a year, Israel agreed to release the bodies of martyrs," civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh told AFP, using a term used to cover those killed in armed clashes or in suicide attacks.

Israeli media reports described the bodies as those of "terrorists."

Al-Sheikh did not say how many corpses would be returned in total, but said a first batch of 84 were to be handed over "in the next few days, after DNA checks."

Israeli officials had no immediate comment.

Salem Khala, a Palestinian campaigner for the return of the militants' remains said a total of 334 Palestinian combatants were currently buried in secret Israeli graveyards.

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