On Tuesday, 2 July 2019, Israeli authorities returned the dead body of Ishaq Ishtiwi, 16, a resident of Rafah, to his family. A lawyer from Al Mezan Center for Human Right oversaw the procedure after the decision to return the dead body had been communicated to Al Mezan on Monday evening. Ishtiwi was transferred to Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for forensic assessment before burial.
Documentation by Al Mezan shows that on 3 April 2019, Israeli forces at the fence east of Rafah fired live fire at Ishtiwi and two other children. He was shot with a live bullet that pierced his left shoulder and exited through his right side. M. Sh., 16, was also shot with a live bullet in his left leg. The third child survived with no injury. Israeli forces then arrested the three children, released two on 4 April 2019, and kept the dead body of Ishtiwi.
With legal authorization, Al Mezan communicated with the Israeli Civil Liaison and Administration and the Military Advocate General (MAG) to receive information on the three children. Once Ishtiwi’s death was communicated, on 15 April 2019 Al Mezan, acting on behalf of the family, requested that the MAG returned his dead body to his family. On Monday, 1 July 2019, MAG respond with the decision to return the dead body.
It is worth noting that per an Israeli cabinet decision issued in January 2017, return of dead bodies of Palestinians is banned, despite Israel’s supreme court rulings that the practice is unlawful. From 30 March 2018 to date, Israeli forces have kept the dead bodies of 11 Palestinians from Gaza, including three minors.
Al Mezan condemns the continued and systematic violations of the human and legal rights of the Palestinian civilian population, and categorically denounces Israel’s policy of keeping the dead bodies of victims of some of these violations. This policy is in breach of the dignity and basic rights of the victims and their families and aggravates their suffering. The sweeping order on holding them constitutes a form of unlawful collective punishment.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to take prompt action to pressure Israeli authorities to return the dead bodies of other Palestinians and to end all forms of collective punishment.