PA to Demand DNA Tests before Israel Returns Bodies

The Palestinian Authority has refused to receive the remains of Palestinian fighters held by Israel because its request for DNA testing was denied, a PA minister said Wednesday.

Since the 1960s, Israel has withheld the bodies of hundreds of Palestinians, interred in numbered, rather than named, graves in a cemetery in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley.

The Israeli news site Ynet reported Wednesday that Israel had agreed to return the bodies as part of a deal to secure the resumption of negotiations.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA minister for civil affairs, said the PA would not accept the bodies unless Israel carried out DNA testing to confirm their identities.

“Israel has leaked this news to the Israeli media because the PA refused to receive the bodies without testing and identifying them,” al-Sheikh told Ma’an.

“The PA is willing to receive all the bodies of martyrs but we want to identify them.”

The minister said the PA had rejected previous Israeli offers to return the bodies because Israel refused to perform DNA testing.

In 2012, Israel transferred the bodies of 91 Palestinians who were interred in numbered graves in Israel as a “gesture” to President Mahmoud Abbas.

The family of Nasser al-Buz received what was alleged to be his body, but they demanded a DNA test to verify the identity. A sample of the remains was sent to a DNA laboratory in Jordan, which found it was not al-Buz’s body.

“I swear when we were carrying the coffin in Ramallah, all my brothers and I felt that it was not our brother Nasser,” Nasser’s 39-year-old brother Subhi told Ma’an.

“Three blood samples and a saliva sample were taken from me at Rafedia Hospital in Nablus and were sent to Jordan for DNA tests. The results were negative, though the test was done twice,” Subhi al-Buz said.

Israel never announced that Nasser had been either killed or detained, the family says.

In 1989 he left home headed to Tunisia, intent on sneaking out of the West Bank via Jordan. He was set to meet late President Yasser Arafat, who was based in the north African country at the time.

The family never heard whether he arrived in Tunisia.

(Ma’an – http://www.maannews.net)

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