The Supreme Court ruled Thursday afternoon that Israel must return the bodies of five Arab terrorists recovered from a terror tunnel built from the Gaza Strip into Israel and demolished by the IDF in October.
In October, Israeli forces discovered a terror tunnel extending from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into the western Negev in Israel.
The tunnel, which extended from the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, was demolished by the IDF shortly after its discovery.
Twelve terrorists present inside the tunnel at the time of the demolition were killed. Of the 12 terrorists, the remains of five were recovered by IDF forces after the demolition was completed.
Relatives of the terrorists, the Hamas terror organization, and the Israeli-Arab NGO Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel demanded Israel return the bodies of the terrorists to Gaza – a demand the government has hitherto refused.
“The holding of bodies contradicts the principles of international humanitarian law,” argued Adalah. “Bodies of individuals who are killed during situations of conflict must be returned to their families for burial with dignity. International humanitarian law prohibits using bodies for political purposes or as bargaining chips.”
The remains of two fallen Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed during the 2014 war with Hamas, remain in the Gaza Strip, held by the Hamas terror group which has demanded the release of jailed terrorists as a precondition to any negotiations for the release of the soldiers’ remains.
On Thursday, the court ruled that the government lacked the authority to hold the terrorists’ remains in custody, adding that the Knesset must pass new legislation permitting the government to do so.
While the court ordered that the bodies must be returned, it gave the government six months to pass legislation empowering it to retain the bodies. If no law is passed within half a year, however, the government will be obliged to hand the remains over.