Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday ordered the cancelation of the planned transfer of several Hamas members’ remains to the Palestinian Authority, Israeli media reported.
The decision stemmed from the possibility that the remains in question would be compiled as part of the efforts to negotiate a prisoner swap with Hamas, the Ynet news site reported.
Barak also ordered that the remains of 10 Palestinians who used to reside in Gaza be excluded from any future lists, according to the report. It was not clear why they were excluded.
The Palestinian Authority’s minister of civil affairs, meanwhile, said that until news of the handover was revealed Monday, the issue of whether or not bodies belonged to Hamas had not been discussed.
"There was no mention of the political affiliation of the bodies," Hussein Ash-Sheikh said. “It is unbelievable that Israel prosecutes martyrs twice, once when they were alive, and then after they have been buried."
He highlighted that the Palestinian side had not received any official decision from the Israeli side annulling the agreement to return 84 bodies. The handover was supposed to take place within a week.
The Palestinian cabinet on Tuesday condemned the “oppressive Israeli assaults” against Palestinian prisoners depriving them of their rights which international law and treaties guaranteed.
At the weekly meeting in Ramallah, ministers called on the international community to get Israel to abide by international law in this regard, namely the Geneva Convention.
Security officials said the release of the bodies was a "goodwill gesture" to President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli public radio suggested many of them were suicide bombers, including one who carried out a 2003 restaurant bombing in Haifa, which killed 21 people.
The bodies are currently interred in numbered, rather than named, graves in Israel.
Most of those to be returned were young men killed in their teens or early 20s, many of them during the Second Intifada, or uprising. Amir Al-Far was the youngest when he was killed aged 16 in Tel Aviv in 2004. The bodies of four Palestinian women were among those to be returned.
Salem Khala, a Palestinian campaigner for the return of the militants’ remains, said a total of 334 Palestinian militants were currently buried in Israeli graveyards.