Israel halts transfer of Palestinian bodies

Israeli defence minister didn`t want the deal to jeopardise efforts to obtain Schalit`s release.

Jerusalem: Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday called off the impending transfer of the bodies of 84 Palestinian militants from an Israeli grave site to the West Bank — just hours after the military confirmed the planned handover.

Barak said in a brief statement early Tuesday that he didn`t want the deal to jeopardise efforts to obtain the release of Israeli Sgt Gilad Schalit, captured five years ago by militants linked to the Gaza Strip`s militant Hamas rulers.

Neither the Defence Ministry nor the Prime Minister`s office had any explanation for the abrupt turnabout.

On Monday afternoon, the military had said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had approved the transfer of the bodies several months ago.

None of the remains had been transferred before the decision was overturned.

The Palestinians were killed in clashes or attacks, including suicide bombings, against Israel. Most died in the second Palestinian uprising during the last decade.

The Yediot Ahronot newspaper suggested that public outrage over the planned handover led Barak to overturn it.

It was not clear whether the deal had been intended to help restart long-stalled peace talks or to serve as a goodwill gesture ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins next month.

Bureau Report

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