JERUSALEM: The Israeli Army said on Friday it was holding the body of a Palestinian shot dead in a West Bank clash 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.
“Troops spotted three assailants who hurled Molotov cocktails at them,” the army said on Friday. “The troops responded with fire.”
In an initial statement on Monday, the army had not mentioned Hamidi was killed, but his death was then reported by Palestinian media.
On Friday, after repeated requests including from AFP, the army named him.
“The body of the terrorist is being held by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) 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,” the army statement added.
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.
Hamidi is reported to have been released from an Israeli prison in 2018, after a 40-month term for throwing stones and petrol bombs at Israeli traffic.
Security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been at a standstill since May, in protest over Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank, a move since suspended.
Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem told AFP that in “the absence of any coordination,” they were told of Hamid’s death by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In early September, Israel said it would withhold the bodies of all slain Palestinian militants.
Prior to the decision, Israel retained only the bodies of militants from Hamas, the rulers of Gaza.
At the time, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the policy change was part of a broader campaign of “deterrence.”
Rula Shadeed, of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, said the policy was “part of the collective punishment inflicted on the Palestinian people, contrary to international law.”
Palestinian campaigners demanding the return of the remains of “martyrs” claim that Israel has been holding in storage the bodies of at least 66 Palestinians, and has buried 254 others since 2015.
In August, before the new policy was announced, 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Hamdan died after he was shot in clashes in the West Bank village of Deir Abu Mishaal, a village leader said. His body has not been returned to his family.