Barak: Body transfer delayed over Schalit considerations

Defense minister says move postponed in order to ensure that correct bodies are verified before transfer to PA.

Ehud Barak 311 (photo credit: Ariel Tarmoni/Defense Ministry)
Ehud Barak 311
(photo credit: Ariel Tarmoni/Defense Ministry)
The transfer of Palestinian bodies to the Palestinian Authority was delayed over considerations for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit from Hamas captivity, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday.
"I postponed the discussion over the transfer of bodies in order to ensure that we transfer the correct bodies, after considerations in regards to Schalit and other issues," Barak said at a IDF brigade-level exercise at the Ze'elim base in the South.
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Earlier Tuesday, Barak decided to suspend all talks with the PA over the transfer of 84 bodies of deceased terrorists."We are looking into the issue, and we will see exactly how the the decision will play out," Barak continued. "I recommend not to react over-dramatically, discussions with the Palestinians are being held on a number of issues, one of them being the transfer of bodies which are [decomposing] in a field cemetery."
Barak added: "Soon enough, there won't be anything left to transfer. On the one hand, we must consider removing the bodies from the temporary cemetery and to transfer them to [the Palestinians]. On the other hand, we must verify who we are transferring the bodies to and to consider withholding certain parts."
"I had suspended the discussions on the transfer of bodies until we verify which bodies we will transfer," Barak said.
In response to the decision,
Noam Schalit, father of Gilad Schalit, said that Israel has failed in negotiations with Hamas, in an interview with Army Radio.
"Israel does not need to take part in the 'trading of bodies,'" Schalit said. "The state of Israel has failed up to now, and has been incapable of exerting leverage on the Hamas organization. Not turning over the bodies will not pressure Hamas leaders in any significant way," he added. According to Israeli media, two of the names on the list of bodies to be transferred were of Hamas members.
Earlier Monday, Israeli officials said that Israel would transfer the bodies of the Palestinians and other Arabs in the coming weeks as a gesture to PA Mahmoud Abbas.
The identities of the 84 corpses were not revealed and officials said they were to be taken from a cemetery near Allenby Bridge where some 150 bodies of Palestinians killed since the Six Day War are buried.
Some reports claimed that the among those slated to be transferred to the PA were the bodies of suicide bombers including that of Ramaz Aslim, who blew himself up in Café Hillel in Jerusalem’s German Colony on September 9, 2003, killing seven people and wounding more than 50, and that of Hanadi Jaradat, the 29-year-old woman who blew herself up in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa on October 4, 2003, killing 21 people and wounding 51.
Details of the gesture were finalized last week and approved by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The process is expected to take some time since the bodies will need to exhumed from the cemetery and then identified. News
of the move was revealed on Monday by PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein a-Sheikh in an interview with the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.
Sheikh said that the PA would coordinate the final transfer of the corpses to cemeteries within Palestinian- controlled territories and in Arab countries as needed.
He said that Israel was in possession of 102 bodies of Palestinians and Arabs and that the current transfer was the first stage in a larger deal.
The decision to transfer the bodies to the PA is not believed to be connected to negotiations for the release of Gilad Schalit but is rather an Israeli gesture to Abbas ahead of Ramadan, which is to run from August 1 to 29.