Israel has handed over the remains of scores of Palestinian fighters killed in attacks on Israel.
The Palestinian Authority published the names of 91 of its “martyrs” killed since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in 1967, whose remains were brought on Thursday to the headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in the West Bank.
An official ceremony and funeral prayers were to be held later in the day.
The fighters had been buried, some of them for decades, in a desolate Israeli military cemetery for “enemy combatants” in the West Bank. They included several suicide bombers.
The handover is part of a deal agreed in response to hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Among the bodies are eight members of a seaborne squad which took over a Tel Aviv hotel in 1975 before being killed by Israeli commandos in a raid in which seven hostages were also killed.
The return of the bodies was announced on May 14 by the office of Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, in what it called “a gesture to President Abbas”.
“It is our hope that this humanitarian gesture will serve both as a confidence-building measure and help get the peace process back on track,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu.
“Israel is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever,” he said.
Abbas has demanded a halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a condition for returning to peace talks that collapsed over the settlement issue in 2010.
The official Palestinian WAFA news agency said the remains will be transferred to families, including 12 bodies which will be sent to the Gaza Strip.
Seventeen bodies will be buried in a mass grave in Ramallah because their families could not be identified, WAFA added.
In July Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, blocked the transfer of the remains of 84 Palestinians buried in numbered graves in the Jordan Valley “cemetery of enemy combatants”, citing the need to review their identities.