Gantz Rules Israel Will Not Return Body of Palestinian Terrorist Nasser Abu Hmeid

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Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that Israel would not return the body of a Palestinian terrorist who died of cancer while serving time in an Israeli prison a day earlier.

Nasser Abu Hmeid, 51, was a founding member of the terrorist group Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party. He had been serving several life sentences since 2002, after being convicted of killing seven Israelis during the Palestinians’ Second Intifada, or uprising, against Israel in the early 2000s.

Gantz’s office said the decision not to release Abu Hmeid’s body for burial was taken following an assessment he carried out with senior security officials and an earlier decision by the security cabinet.

Two years ago, Israel’s cabinet ruled that the country could keep the bodies of Palestinians accused of murder, harming others or in possession of weapons, even if they were not affiliated with the terrorist group Hamas.

Previous Israeli policy was only to keep the bodies of Hamas terrorists for a possible prisoner exchange with the terrorist group. Others were returned to their families for burial.

Whether retaining the bodies of attackers is an effective policy is a matter of debate within the security establishment. Some believe this gives Israel an added advantage in negotiations with Hamas, as well as acting as a deterrent against attacks. Others see it as ineffective and based on shaky legal foundations.

Despite the decision, there were instances where Israel released the bodies of Palestinians accused of committing attacks.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at the headquarters of the IDF Central Command in Jerusalem, November 23, 2022. (Elad Malka/Ministry of Defence)

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) confirmed Abu Hmeid’s death at a Tel Aviv-area hospital on Tuesday morning. He said he was terminally ill and had been hospitalized the day before. The service added that “as in all cases of this type, the incident will be investigated”.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, said Abu Hmeid was diagnosed with cancer in August 2021.

Palestinian officials blamed Israel for Abu Hmeid’s death. PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused Israel of “deliberate medical negligence”.

Shtayyeh said he was mourning the death of Abu Hmeid “on behalf of the government and our Palestinian people”.

Hamas said Abu Hmeid’s death was a “serious crime” against Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people. He called for “a real escalation in the occupation prisons” in response to his death.

IPS rejected the allegations of negligence, saying the detainee “received regular and rigorous care from IPS medical staff and outside professionals.”

Gantz on Wednesday also rejected “false allegations that Israel is involved in his death”.

Palestinian terrorist Nasser Abu Hmeid in an undated photograph (Wafa)

In 2002, Abu Hmeid, the right-hand man of arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti, was convicted of murdering seven Israelis – Eliyahu Cohen, Binyamin and Talia Kahane, Gad Rejwan, Yosef Habi, Eli Dahan and Salim Barakat – in a series of acts of terror. attacks during the Second Intifada that he personally carried out or directed from afar. During the trial, Israeli officials described him as a “killing machine”.

He was also convicted of 12 counts of attempted murder and a number of other security-related charges and has served several life sentences.

He had already been found guilty of the murder of five Palestinians who collaborated with Israel in 1990, but he was released a few years later as part of the Oslo Accords.

As his health deteriorated, Abu Hmeid was taken to Shamir Medical Center on Monday, where he was given medication to manage his pain.

His mother was in the process of obtaining permission to visit him in hospital when he died, according to the official Palestinian Wafa news agency. His family were allowed to visit him in hospital in January after he had surgery to remove a tumor in his lung.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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