Defense Minister Naftali Bennett instructed security authorities on Wednesday to halt any future release of bodies of terrorists held by Israel, regardless of which terrorist organization the person was affiliated with.
The decision was made after a round of consultations with senior security officials. According to Bennett's new directive, exceptional cases, such as the return of the bodies of minor terrorists, will only be approved at the defense minister's discretion.
The new policy requires the approval of the Security Cabinet and will be presented before it soon.
"The request for a change in policy was made by the family of [slain IDF soldier held in Gaza by Hamas] Hadar Goldin during their meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week," said a senior security official. "Netanyahu expressed willingness to change the policy and instructed security authorities to look into the issue."
So far, Israel only kept holding the bodies of Hamas militants or other individuals affiliated with the terror group. Israel also continues to hold the bodies of terrorists who carried out serious attacks on Israeli civilians and troops.
The rest of the bodies are returned gradually to Palestinian hands, usually on Friday evenings, when public attention in Israel is not directed to it.
In the past, Israel returned the bodies of terrorists to prevent escalations in violence, but terrorist funerals have become a breeding ground for violence and incitement against Israel as mourners regularly call for vengeance on Israel.
Goldin's family lauded on Wednesday Bennet's decision to change the policy.
"We back the defense minister's decision," said the family. "It is inconceivable to continue releasing dead or living terrorists while the soldiers are held in Hamas's hands."
The release of terrorists is a prize that we cannot give Hamas while they're still holding soldiers and civilians."
"Prime Minister Netanyahu has committed to condition any agreement on the matter on the boys' return home and we expect the cessation of any economic or civilian projects in the Gaza Strip as long as the boys are still held in Gaza."
The bodies of IDF soldiers Goldin and Oron Shaul have been held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since 2014.
First published: 13:22 , 11.27.19