Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs refutes claims of misunderstanding regarding transfer of terrorists' remains.
PA deceleration comes after Defense minister Barak orders IDF not to transfer bodies of Hamas suicide bombers and terrorists to Palestinian Authority
The Palestinian Authority said Tuesday that is will not compromise on its demand to transfer terrorists' bodies held by Israel back to its custody.
Earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak suspended the planned transfer of remains belonging to 84 Palestinians – including Hamas terrorists and Fatah operatives – to the PA.
Barak ordered that the remains of Hamas terrorists be excluded from similar talks in future, while security sources said a deal pertaining to the remains of Fatah operatives was still negotiated.
According to Barak the transfer would only take place if the bodies of Hamas suicide bombers and terrorists from Gaza would not be included.
Barak listed several names of bodies that cannot be transferred such as the Awadallah brothers, former leaders of the Hamas military wing in the West Bank, who were previously reported to be on the list of the 84 bodies.
Other names Barak listed are Fuad and Abdullah Qawasmeh, senior Hamas leaders in Hebron, Ramez Abu Salim who carried out a suicide bombing in Café Hillel in Jerusalem in 2003, and Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 21 people when blowing herself up in Haifa's Maxim restaurant in 2003.
Barak also mentioned the names of Amar Ali Abdullah, who carried out a suicide bombing in the Tel Aviv Carmel market in 2004, and Abdullah Abdullah, who was responsible for the bombing at the Stage nightclub in Tel Aviv in 2005.
Moreover, Haaretz reported on Monday that some of the bodies, such as the Awadallah brothers, were slated to be part of a swap deal with Hamas for abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
On Tuesday, the defense minister said a transfer of bodies to the Palestinian Authority could go through, but without Palestinians who had carried out serious terrorist attacks or those who resided in Gaza.
Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh told Ynet that the PA found the decision "unacceptable": "We want all of the bodies back regardless of their affiliation."
Al-Sheikh stressed that a deal to that effect had been reached with Israel, saying talks on the matter were held vis-à-vis a Defense Ministry official, who he refused to name.
"I held official talks with an official delegate. I'm positive the political echelon was involved and knew about everything, because the process had taken several months. The full list of names was presented to me by the Israelis," he said.
Throughout the negotiations, he added, the possibility that Israel might withhold the remains of Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives was never mentions.
The Israeli official, he said, "Gave me the green-light and said that everything was set and the process could be set in motion. I asked if I could publish the list and was told that I could."
Negotiations regarding the body transfer were clandestine and the list's publication caused a public and political uproar.
Al-Sheikh confessed that the magnitude of the backlash was surprising: "I think that the political echelon panicked because of the public's opinion," he hedged. "I myself don’t understand it. Don't pass judgment on a person twice, after he's already dead."
The Palestinian minister refused to address the "blame game" on the Israeli side: "I don't care who told who to do what. That's an internal Israeli disagreement and I have no intention of interfering it in. It's none of my business," he said.
Al-Sheikh stressed that the body transfer had nothing to do with the negotiations meant to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
'Blaming the IDF is pointless'
The political echelon was quick to blame the military for the "misunderstanding," but IDF sources told Ynet that blaming IDF officers was "pointless."
"We were told to begin preparatory work, and that's exactly what we did. No one in uniform has the right to reach any agreements without the political echelon's say-so. That's what we did and that's what we'll keep doing," a senior military source said.
Israel and the PA have been negotiating the issue for over a year, and the 84 bodies in question are part of a list of 180 names requested by the Palestinians.
"The subject came up during meetings with the Palestinians, and we recently started going over lists, but nothing was finalized," a defense establishment source stressed.
"The Palestinians were quick to publish a list of names, creating the false impression that everything was settled. No one in the IDF or at the Office of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories signed off on anything… which is why pointing the finger at the military is wrong."
If and when the military's preparatory work matured into a list, the matter will be brought before the proper elements for approval, he concluded.
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