Israel returns remains of 91 Palestinian militants

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has given no sign that Israel`s gesture would persuade him to return to peace talks.

Zeenews Bureau

Jerusalem: In a bid to persuade President Mahmoud Abbas to renew peace talks, Israel on Thursday handed over the remains of 91 Palestinian militants to the Palestinian Authority.

The remains include suicide bombers and militants who were killed over the past decades while carrying out suicide bombings or other attacks on Israeli targets. At least one of the attacks dated back to the 1970s.

The bodies had been buried in coffins in Israel and were dug up for the transfer.

The Palestinian official in charge of Thursday`s transfer, Salem Khileh, said Israeli officials handed over the remains to Palestinian liaisons in the Jordan Valley.

Eighty bodies were then transported to Ramallah, and 11 to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Near the crossing from Israel to Gaza, families held framed pictures of their dead sons as they awaited the bodies.

Palestinian government ceremonies honouring the dead militants were to be held in the West Bank and Gaza later Thursday.

Abbas has given no sign that the gesture would persuade him to return to talks.

On Wednesday, he reiterated that the Palestinians would not return to negotiations unless Israel freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Palestinians see those areas, captured by Israel in 1967, as the core of a future state that would also include Gaza.

Israel rejects that demand. Israeli-Palestinian talks stalled more than three years ago and have failed to take off again despite US mediation, primarily because of the dispute over settlement construction.

(With Agency inputs)

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