This morning, Israel began the process of returning the bodies of 91 convicted terrorists to the PA as a “goodwill gesture” to the PA so negotiations can resume.
According to reports, the return of the terrorists’ bodies to their families has been called “Operation Crossing Jordan” and will send 21 bodies to the Erez crossing where they will be deported from Israel and the remaining bodies to Ramallah. All of the terrorists were guilty of committing violent acts against Israelis, including the Jerusalem Café Hillel bombing in 2003 that murdered an Israeli woman and her father the day before her wedding. The list of bodies also includes those responsible for bombings in Tel Aviv and Beersheva during the 1970s as well as the murderers responsible for the Savoy Hotel attack in 1975. This morning, the IDF Rabbinate exhumed the bodies and identified them. The media was banned from the area, as were non-military personnel.\
The Palestinian Authority is planning to hold a homecoming party for the bodies at the Mukata Compound that served as former PA President Yasser Arafat’s headquarters and now is home to the Palestinian government. They plan to hold a prayer vigil so that the families of the murderers can pray over their family members’ bodies before burial. The bodies heading to Ramallah are expected to arrive around 2pm. It is expected that the IDF will raise the alert level, given past reactions to ceremonies of this nature that have involved violence.
The body transfer comes in the wake of massive pressure on Israel to give the PA a “goodwill gesture” so peace negotiations will continue. The PA has said that will not agree to negotiations unless Israel gives into every single one of its demands, including pulling back to the 1967 borders and ceasing construction everywhere in the country. Israel agreed to the transfer, but has insisted that the PA drop their demand that Israel simply capitulate on every issue and instead be open to “peace talks without preconditions”.
Israel has not issued an official response other than confirming that the transfer was a goodwill gesture and meant to restart the peace process. The PA has also not issued a response although PA ministers have hinted that they will demand more bodies in the near future. Right wing MKs are expected to condemn the move as “surrender to terrorism”.