The Israeli army said on Friday it was holding the body of a Palestinian shot dead in the occupied West Bank earlier this week, ending days of uncertainty over his fate.
The announcement follows a policy change last month in which Israel said it would not return the bodies of any Palestinian killed during or as a result of an anti-Israeli attack.
On Monday, 27-year-old Palestinian Samir Hamidi was killed by Israeli soldiers near the northern West Bank settlement of Einav after allegedly throwing petrol bombs.
In an initial statement on Monday, the army had not mentioned Hamidi was killed, but his death was then reported by Palestinian media.
The Israeli army said in a statement that it was holding Hamidi’s body “according to existing procedures, until a decision is made in accordance with the guidance from elected officials on the issue of holding the bodies of terrorists”.
Family calls for body’s release
The family of Hamidi, from the village of Beit Lid, close to the Israeli settlement at Einav, have refused to receive condolence visits until his body is returned.
Meanwhile, they called on human rights organisations to pressure Israel into releasing the body of Hamidi and to return it to his family, Palestinian media reported this week.
Referring to their son as a “martyr”, the family said they received calls from several Palestinian leaders including Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and the governor of Tulkarm, Issam Abu Bakr, who conveyed their support and condolences.
Palestinian media reported the incident saying that Hamidi, a freed prisoner and a student at the Palestine Technical University of Kadoorie, was wounded on Monday evening, after being shot near a checkpoint by Israeli forces.
According to Palestinian media, Israel has kept the bodies of 66 “martyrs” since 2015.
Security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which governs occupied West Bank, has been at a standstill since May, in protest against Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank, a move since suspended.
Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem told AFP news agency that in “the absence of any coordination”, they were told of Hamidi’s death by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In early September, Israel said it would withhold the bodies of all slain armed Palestinians.
Prior to the decision, Israel retained only the bodies of armed members from Hamas, which governs Gaza.
At the time, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said the policy change was part of a broader campaign of “deterrence”.