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Israel hands over bodies of Palestinian militants in 'confidence-building gesture'

The remains of 91 Palestinians who died while carrying out attacks against Israel have been handed over to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Palestine prisoners protest 120405Enlarge
Protestors with their hands tied, eyes blindfolded and mouths taped take part in an Arab Jewish demonstration in the city of Jaffa near Tel Aviv on May 12, 2012, against the administrative detention of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

The remains of 91 Palestinians who died while carrying out attacks against Israel have been handed over to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Seventy-nine bodies – which include those of militants and suicide bombers who died in attacks up to four decades ago – were transferred to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on Thursday, while a further twelve bodies handed over to the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, according to Reuters.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said: “It is our hope that this humanitarian gesture will serve both as a confidence-building measure and held get the peace process back on track. Israel is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever.”

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According to the BBC, the repatriation of the remains is part of a deal struck earlier this month to end a mass hunger strike staged by more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. A special ceremony is to be held in the West Bank city of Ramallah before the bodies are buried again, while Hamas will hold its own memorial in Gaza.

Last summer Israeli Defence Minister blocked the transfer of the bodies of 84 Palestinians buried in a cemetery for “enemy combatants” in the Jordan Valley, citing the need to review their identities, Al Jazeera reports.

President Abbas has demanded a halt to Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as a condition for returning to peace negotiations that collapsed in 2010. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120531/israel-hands-over-bodies-palestinian-militants