Defense Minister Ehud Barak has instructed officials to freeze contacts with the Palestinian Authority on the transfer of the bodies of 84 Palestinian terrorists buried in Israel.
Barak's office said the process was halted as not to undermine negotiations for a deal that would secure the release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
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"This was done in order to look into and ensure that there will be no discussion into handing over bodies that should not be transferred due to considerations pertaining to Gilad Shalit's release or other considerations," Barak's office said.
Earlier, officials said that the body transfer, which was set to take place in the near future, has no connection whatsoever to Shalit, who has been in Hamas captivity for five years. Noam Shalit refused to comment on the transfer plans
Monday evening, the IDF's Spokesman's Office said in a statement that Prime Minister Netanyahu already approved the handover of bodies several months ago.
Barak's decision followed angry reactions by relatives of terror victims stunned to discover that the bodies of terrorists who killed their loved ones would be handed over. Many family members were not aware that Israel has kept the bodies for all these years.
"I'm very surprised, I didn't even know the body exists," said Ora Regev, mother of Nir who was killed in the Maxim restaurant terror attack in Haifa.
'Treat bodies like Bin Laden'
The body of the female terrorist responsible for the attack, Hanadi Jaradat, is one of the names on the list of 84 bodies that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to transfer to the Palestinians a few months ago.
"The least the government could have done was to let us know" said Regev, adding "If it was up to me, her body wouldn't exist. She should have been burnt so that not a finger remained. She bombed our children. This is a reckless scandal."
Dan Bahat, father of Tziki Bahat who was killed in the attack and grandfather of Hadar who was mortally wounded, was furious over the "gestures that are made without getting anything in return."
Bahat said Israel needs to learn from the Americans when it comes to fighting terror: "We should have done what they did to Bin Laden,who was buried at sea so that his gravesite would not become a pilgrimage site."
Another name on the list is Ramez Sali Abu Salim, the terrorist who murdered seven people by blowing himself up at Jerusalem's Café Hillel. Yet another notable name is Ihab Abu Salim, who killed eight people in a central Israel suicide bombing.
The bodies are buried in military cemeteries for terrorists inside Israel.
Ahiya Raved contributed to the story
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