Israel to withhold remains of senior Palestinian militant

An Israeli flag flies in a street in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque or the Tomb of the patriarchs, in the West Bank town of Hebron, on May 26, 2022. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

JERUSALEM — Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the country will keep the remains of a Palestinian prisoner who died on Tuesday for negotiations with Hamas.

"After conferring with security authorities, it was decided that Israel will keep the body of Nasser Abu Hamid for the purpose of negotiating the release of Israeli hostages," the statement quoted Defense Minister Benny Gantz as saying.

Israel often withholds the bodies of Palestinians who were killed for allegedly carrying out an attack

READ MORE: Palestine hails UN resolution against Israeli settlements

Israel's Prison Authority announced that 50-year-old Abu Hamid died of lung cancer on Tuesday. He was one of the founders of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.

He was convicted of killing seven Israelis during the second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation during 2000-2005, and was serving several life sentences since 2002.

His death sparked anger and protest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abbas held Israel accountable for Abu Hamid's death and accused Israel of neglecting his medical care, according to a report by the official Palestinian news agency of WAFA. Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh mourned his death, calling it in a statement "a crime that will not go unpunished."

READ MORE: Palestinian rights group accuses Israel of using 'mafia methods'

Israel often withholds the bodies of Palestinians who were killed for allegedly carrying out an attack. According to Israel, the controversial measure is aimed at deterring more attacks.

Israel seized the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and has controlled or besieged them ever since, while the Palestinians seek to establish an independent state on these territories with East Jerusalem as the capital.