Israeli defense minister Bennett: No more returning bodies of dead terrorists

The defense minister calls it “part of a broader deterrent process” that “will come into effect after the [security] cabinet’s approval.”

By World Israel News Staff 

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has announced that he is putting forward a policy which abolishes the Israeli practice of returning the bodies of terrorists.

The defense minister “instructed the IDF and the defense establishment on Tuesday to stop the total release of terrorist bodies,” said a statement from Bennett’s office.

“This was after a number of discussions the minister held on the issue of deterrence with senior security officials,” the English-language statement continued.

The minister says that the ramification of the announcement is that “all the bodies of terrorists that Israel holds and will hold in the future will not be released, regardless of the terrorist’s organizational affiliation and the nature of the attack he committed or attempted to carry out.”

“Exceptional cases” would remain at the discretion of the defense minister “based on the circumstances,” says the statement, giving a case of underage terrorists as one such example.

The minister acknowledges that the new policy is subject to the approval of the security cabinet.

Bennett says that it will be “introduced shortly” to the ministers, “as part of a broader deterrent process, and will come into effect after the [security] cabinet’s approval.”

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Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff, welcomed Bennett’s announcement but called for greater secrecy and sensitivity.

“This is a step in the right direction, but such decisions should be made in the cabinet rather than in the media. We have prisoners and missing people on the other side, and everything needs to be done and every effort made to bring them home,” Gantz told reporters.

The family of Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body has been held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since 2014, said that it backs the defense minister’s decision.

“It is inconceivable that while the soldiers are in the hands of Hamas, we will continue to release dead or living terrorists. Freeing terrorists is a prize that Hamas cannot be given while holding on to our soldiers and civilians,” said the Goldin statement, referring to the Hamas terror group which controls Gaza.

The family is said to have called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take such a step, in a meeting with the premier, and Netanyahu is reported to have responded sympathetically, saying that he would examine the subject with the defense establishment.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has pledged to us that a ceasefire [with Hamas in the Gaza Strip] will not take place without bringing the boys home and we expect to see that the economic-civilian projects will not be promoted as long as our boys remain in Gaza,” said the Goldins.

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The family of Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose remains are also still in the hands of Hamas, repeated its previous assertion that the Israeli government is not showing enough resolve to ensure that the bodies of missing Israelis are returned.