Israel to return bodies of 23 Palestinian attackers
JERUSALEM – Agence France Presse
AFP photoIsrael was set on Jan. 1 to hand over the bodies of 23 Palestinians killed during recent attacks on Israelis, the army said, in an apparent bid to ease tensions.
“Today, in accordance with the instructions from the government, the army is planning to return the bodies of 23 Palestinian assailants who attacked Israeli civilians and members of security forces in the last months,” a military spokeswoman told AFP.
Palestinian medical sources in Hebron said 17 bodies to be buried in the area had already been received. Six others were to be handed over in the northern West Bank.
Since a wave of violence erupted at the start of October, 138 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, according to an AFP count, most while carrying out attacks on Israelis.
Twenty Israelis, an American and an Eritrean have also been killed in the unrest.
Israel does not always immediately return the bodies of slain attackers.
The military spokeswoman said that after the handovers the army would have returned a total of 76 bodies and was still holding two. Police could also be holding more bodies, she said, from attacks in Israel and east Jerusalem.
Palestinian sources said the Israelis were still holding a total of 17 bodies.
Meanwhile, a gunman killed two people and wounded at least three others in central Tel Aviv on Jan. 1 before fleeing, Israeli police said, adding that the motive for the attack was unclear, Reuters reported.
Nati Shakked, owner of the Simta bar on Dizengoff Street, which was hit by gunfire, said the assailant had waited on a bench outside before taking a machine-gun out of a bag and “shooting in every direction.”
Israel has seen a wave of Palestinian street attacks since October, fuelled in part by Muslim anger over stepped-up Jewish visits to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque complex, also sacred to Jews, as well as long-stalled peace talks.
“It was a terrorist attack, without a doubt,” Shakked told Israel’s Channel Two television.
Police said a manhunt was under way in Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital.