Israeli forces imposed heightened restrictions on movement at the gates of al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem after a sit-in was organized at the site following Friday prayers to demand the release of the bodies of slain Palestinians withheld by the Israeli state. Head of media and public relations for the Islamic Endowment (Waqf), Firas Dibs, said that Israeli forces had raided al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while soldiers deployed at the gates of the holy site banned Palestinians from entering the area after the Dhuhur (afternoon) prayer. Dibs added that Israeli forces also searched all Palestinian youth "in a provocative manner" as they exited the compound following prayers and the subsequent sit-in.
Witnesses told Ma'an Nes Agency that Israeli forces stationed at the gate also detained an unspecified number of Palestinians and transported them to Israeli interrogation centers. An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.
Meanwhile, on March 22, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled not to release the bodies of Palestinians still held in Israeli morgues to their families for burial, all of whom were killed by Israeli forces while carrying out attacks on Israelis.
In January, Israel's security cabinet said that the bodies of Palestinians allegedly affiliated to the Hamas movement would not be returned to their families, as Israel considers the bodies to be a bargaining chip that could be used in a future exchange deal with Hamas, the de facto ruling party of the besieged Gaza Strip, where the bodies of two Israeli soldiers are believed to be held.
The Israeli government continues to hold the bodies of Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour, Muhammad al-Faqih, Muhammad Tarayra, Rami Awartani, and Misbah Abu Sbeih. The remains have been held for 11 months, eight months, seven months, seven months, and five months, respectively.
A joint statement released by prisoner support group Addameer and Israeli minority rights group Adalah in March 2016 condemned Israel's practice of withholding bodies as "a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture."
From Ma'an News Agency, March 24