Citing secret evidence of the family’s Hamas ties, the court says the body can be held for a possible prisoner swap with the terrorist organization.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The High Court of Justice rejected the petition Monday of a terrorist’s family to release his body for burial almost two years after he murdered Israeli Yotam Ovadia, citing secret evidence that the family has ties to Hamas.
In the ruling, given only minutes after the court was adjourned, the judges said, “We received information about the terrorist’s ties to the Hamas organization. We heard a report on the negotiations [between Hamas and Israel]. Given the information we have heard, we see no reason to interfere with the decision to hold onto the body.”
Israel is conducting indirect negotiations with Hamas for a prisoner and body swap, as the organization is holding on to two mentally ill Israeli citizens who crossed into the Gaza Strip on their own in 2014 and 2015, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in Operation Protective Edge.
In a 2017 Cabinet decision, the government said it would keep the bodies of Hamas terrorists as a bargaining chip. Several exceptions were made to the ruling over the years, much to the dismay of the hostages’ families. When he became defense minister late last year, Naftali Bennett ordered that no bodies be released, no matter which terrorist organization they had belonged to.
The family’s lawyer denied that it was affiliated with Hamas.
The widow of the murdered man, Tal Ovadia, was happy with the decision, having spoken out against the petition in court by citing national security reasons as well as personal ones.
“It’s impossible for the State of Israel to return terrorists’ bodies for no reason, as a gift,” she said. “It’s unreasonable… There has to be clear deterrence and the understanding that it doesn’t pay to carry out terror attacks.”
“My older son asks where his father is,” she added. “He’s four years old… My little boy doesn’t even know the meaning of the word. My children will grow up without knowing him and this scar will accompany us everywhere.”
Ovadia was supported by her family, activists of the Im Tirtzu Zionist group, and members of the Choosing Life Forum of bereaved families, who came to protest with her.
Herzl Hajaj, a Forum member whose daughter Shir was killed three years ago in a truck ramming attack in Jerusalem, said that it was critical not to release any terrorist’s body.
“Holding the body is not for the purpose of abusing the terrorist’s family, it is part of deterring the next terrorist, who sees the respect they receive at funerals. For him it’s motivation, a drive to commit the next attack,” he said, adding, “A family that educated to murder Jews does not deserve to have a grave to weep over.”