In an effort to deter future terrorist attacks, the Israeli government said it had no plans to hand the bodies of two Palestinians responsible for Tuesday’s axe and shooting rampage on a Jerusalem synagogue over to their families for proper Islamic burial.
Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper and Channel 10 reported that a police representative told the Jerusalem District Court Wednesday that the government would not “commit” to returning the bodies of Palestinian cousins Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal who killed five Israelis, four of them rabbis while they were praying, before being shot to death at the scene.
Masked Palestinians hold knifes and axes as they celebrate an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue while standing in front of a poster of the attackers, Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, during a rally in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed five Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years. (Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)
Representing the Israel Police, Chief Inspector Yigal Elmaliah told the court that there were investigative considerations at stake and hinted the deterrence factor was being weighed.
“We can’t commit to a certain date [for returning the bodies],” Elmaliah said according to Ha’aretz.
“The State of Israel is trying to cope with the recent wave of attacks. One possibility being considered is not to return the bodies to the families, but [for the state] to bury them. The issue is being examined at the highest levels,” he added.
Both Ha’aretz and Channel 10 noted that this was the first time in memory that the government was withholding the body of a terrorist to try to deter future attacks.
In previous cases, following the police investigation, the bodies of perpetrators were returned to families who held funerals for them, some of which spiraled into violent Palestinian protests.
Muhammad Mahmoud, the attorney for the Abu Jamal family, told the court, “This won’t deter [anyone], it will only cause more tension and more people will do terrible things.”
“No one is justifying what happened yesterday. It’s heartbreaking, but you can’t punish anymore,” he said, since the perpetrators were already dead.
The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Times of Israel Wednesday that it was unaware of the plan to withhold the bodies.
Israeli security officials are searching for ways to deter those bent on carrying out attacks, even with the knowledge they are likely to be killed in the process.
Netanyahu on Tuesday swiftly ordered the demolition of the homes of the cousins as well as the homes of other perpetrators of recent terror attacks, a move the U.S. State Department again decried on Wednesday, calling it “counterproductive in an already tense situation.”
Israel’s Arutz Sheva news site reported that the family of the cousins erupted in celebration and passed out sweets in response to Tuesday’s attack. Three of those killed were U.S. citizens.