Rabbi Binyamin Kahane and his wife Talia, Hy"d, among the victims of Nasser Abu Hamid
Rabbi Binyamin Kahane and his wife Talia, Hy"d, among the victims of Nasser Abu HamidBituach Leumi website

Following a situation assessment and in accordance with the recommendation of senior security officials, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has decided that Israel will not return the body of deceased security prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid to his family for burial.

Abu Hamid died a day ago in an Israeli hospital, succumbing to terminal illness. Prior to his death, when it became clear that he was taking his final breaths, Abu Hamid's mother was granted special permission to visit him in hospital. He was not married.

The decision to retain the body in Israel follows a cabinet decision made two years ago, for the purpose of acquiring bargaining chips in any potential prisoner exchange. Indeed, Hamas in Gaza has been holding the bodies of two slain IDF soldiers for years (Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul), as well as two living Israeli citizens, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. The cabinet decision referred specifically to the bodies of terrorists convicted of murder, causing bodily injury, or being found in possession of illegal weapons, even if the terrorists were not affiliated with Hamas.

Abu Hamid was one of the founders of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and was also considered to be the "right-hand man" of Marwan Barghouti. In December of 2002, he received seven life sentences as well as another 50 years behind bars, after being found responsible for the deaths of at least seven Israeli citizens and guilty of other terrorist-related charges.

Among the crimes attributed to Abu Hamid are the murders of Rabbi Binyamin Kahane and his wife Talia, Hy"d in 2000; the murder of Eliyahu Cohen in December, 2001; the murder of Gadi Rejuan in 2002; and the murders of Yosef Hevi, Eli Dahan, and Salim Bareket in 2002. He was also found guilty of another 12 attempted murders.

In recent years, after Abu Hamid's diagnosis of lung cancer became known, Palestinian-Arabs launched a campaign for his early release. Following his death, the Palestinian Prisoners Authority blamed Israel for causing his demise, an accusation that was echoed by other prominent PA figures. The PPA released a statement saying that, "The prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid died in Assaf Harofeh Hospital due to the intentional negligence of the Occupation authorities and as the result of the intentional killing policy of the Israel Prisons Service with regard to sick prisoners."

Defense Minister Benny Gantz rejected the false accusations that Israel was in any way responsible for Abu Hamid's death, following which the Prisons Service issued a statement saying that, "The prisoner, who was born in 1971 and was a single resident of Judea & Samaria, was sentenced to life for murder and enemy action, security-related offenses, and attempted murder. This was his fourth prison sentence. An announcement has been sent to his family. As with every other case of this kind, the incident will be investigated."