HEBRON (West Bank): Thousands of Palestinians gathered on Saturday in Hebron to bury 14 men whose bodies had been held by Israel after being killed carrying out attacks.

Israel handed over the bodies of 23 Palestinians on Friday in an apparent bid to ease tensions, of which 14 were from the southern West Bank city.

The Al-Hussein mosque was overflowing with people, where the 14 bodies were on display before prayers, wrapped in Palestinian flags.

Relatives kissed the foreheads of the deceased, some of which were covered with flags of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

Prayers were also held in Hebron’s only stadium next to Al-Hussein, while hundreds of others waited outside the mosque in the cold.

Heavy rain began as the bodies were carried out of the mosque and those attending began chanting “There is no god but God”.

Some could not hold back their tears, while others held up the flags of various Palestinian factions. Basel Sadr, 20, was among those buried.

He had been shot dead on October 14 near Jerusalem’s Old City after police said he was about to stab security forces.

Shortly before the funeral, women gathered at Sadr’s home to read verses from the the Quran over his body wrapped in a Palestinian flag, while his mother and sister silently wept and hugged him.

“Bassel was the first martyr (from Hebron) whose body was detained by Israel” for 80 days, his father Bassem said outside his home.

The funerals of the rest of the Palestinians handed over by Israel were to take place throughout the West Bank.

Since a wave of violence erupted at the start of October, 138 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, according to a count, most while carrying out attacks on Israelis. Israel does not always immediately return the bodies of slain attackers.

A military spokeswoman said that, after Friday’s handovers, the army would have returned a total of 76 bodies and was still holding two.

Police could also be holding more bodies, she said.

Palestinian sources said the Israelis were still holding a total of 17 bodies, including at least 15 of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

Twenty Israelis, an American and an Eritrean have also been killed in the unrest.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2016

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