TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli authorities were refusing to release the bodies of two cousins who killed five in a Jerusalem synagogue earlier in the week, a lawyer for the family told NBC News on Thursday. The move was highly unusual if not unprecedented. “They justified [withholding the bodies] for two reasons — to continue the investigation, and it needs a political decision [by Israeli officials]," lawyer Mohammad Mahmud said. “I think it's a collective punishment.”
According to Haaretz, this was apparently the first time that Israel has not released the bodies of attackers as a deterrent. “We can’t commit to a certain date [for returning the bodies],” Chief Inspector Yigal Elmaliah representing Israel’s Police told the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday, according to Haaretz. “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.” Three American rabbis were among those killed on Tuesday.
Israeli police would not comment on Mahmud’s statement or the Haaretz article, although a government official who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity said it was true. “The move was meant to act as a deterrent to future attacks,” the Israeli official told NBC News. The funerals of attackers and alleged attackers often spark new violence.
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