Since taking office, Gantz has pushed to advance a policy that expands the scope of withholding to include all attackers even if they were affiliated with other factions or if the attack they carried out or tried to carry out caused no harm. The declared aim of such a sweeping amendment is to increase pressure on Hamas to negotiate the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 war on the Gaza Strip where Gantz was Chief-of-Staff.
Even in its narrower scope, the Israeli policy to withhold Palestinian bodies as bargaining chips, based on Regulation 133(3) of the British Emergency (Defence) Regulations of 1945, violated the Customary IHL Rules on the handling and disposal of the war dead, the prohibition against collective punishment, and the fundamental human rights to dignity, family life, religious freedom and cultural customs, and the prohibition against inhuman or degrading treatment. In his report to the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, recognized Israel's policy of withholding dead Palestinian bodies as a form of collective punishment.
The new cabinet decision comes almost one year after a ruling by Israel's High Court of Justice where a 4-3 majority concluded that the army is authorized to withhold Palestinian bodies as bargaining chips in accordance with Regulation 133(3), overturning a previous court decision.
Israel continues to withhold the bodies of 66 Palestinians as bargaining chips in addition to at least 253 bodies languishing in the cemeteries for enemy combatants and in unmarked graves.