JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel turned over to Palestinian officials the bodies of 91 terrorists.
The remains of 80 Palestinian terrorists, which had been buried in an Israeli military cemetery in the West Bank, were turned over to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on Thursday. Another 11 bodies were repatriated to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Suicide bombers responsible for the deaths of more than 200 Israelis were among the bodies transferred. The Almagor terror victims association on Wednesday had ripped the government for the handover.
Included among the repatriated bodies was Ramez Aslim, the suicide bomber who attacked the central Jerusalem Cafe Hillel in 2003. Dual Israeli-American citizens Dr. David Applebaum, head of the emergency room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and his daughter Nava, who was to have been married the day after the bombing, were killed in that attack.
Dozens of reserve soldiers were called into service to exhume the bodies during the month of May, Ynet reported.
The repatriation of the bodies is being called a good-will gesture to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. It reportedly was agreed to during a meeting in Ramallah earlier this month between Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal envoy, Isaac Molcho.
In ripping the government, the Almagor group’s chairman, Meir Indor, said that "The Netanyahu-Barak-Mofaz government is giving a boost to terror and abusing the bereaved families and the injured. This is a government without a heart and without a brain."
An official ceremony to honor the terrorists was scheduled to be held Thursday in the PA’s presidential compound in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh told the Palestinian Ma’an news service. A ceremony also reportedly will be held in Gaza.