JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s Defence Minister said yesterday that the remains of a Palestinian prisoner who died a day earlier from lung cancer would not be released for burial.
Benny Gantz’s office said the body of Nasser Abu Hamid, a founder of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, would be held as a bargaining chip for the return of captive Israelis and the remains of soldiers held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Abu Hamid, 50, was a former leader of the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. He had been serving multiple life sentences since 2002 after being convicted in the deaths of seven Israelis during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israel’s occupation in the early 2000s.
Palestinians marched and shuttered shops in the West Bank on Tuesday to protest his death.
Israel often withholds the remains of Palestinians killed while allegedly carrying out attacks.
Israel said the policy serves as a deterrent for future attacks and leverage for prisoner exchanges, while rights groups said the action is a form of collective punishment inflicted on grieving families. Palestinian officials had called for Abu Hamid’s release as his health deteriorated in recent months, and on Tuesday blamed Israel for his death.