The Israeli government has ordered its military to “return” the bodies of two Palestinians who were buried in a mass grave, after Israel said they had been “abandoned”.
Israel said in a statement on Tuesday that the bodies were of one of the group, Omar al-Qashayyah, and his wife, Zaynab al-Barr, who were found in the rubble of their house in the occupied West Bank.
The statement did not specify which members of the family had been killed, or who had carried out the burial.
But a statement by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on Tuesday said the bodies belonged to Omar al Qashayya, who had died in custody in the West Bank in October.
“Israel has ordered the military to return the bodies to their families,” the statement said.
“A special operation is underway to retrieve the bodies from the rubble.”
The two bodies were discovered in a large mass grave in the area of al-Saba and al-Shams, a Palestinian town east of Ramallah, and in the vicinity of the village of Beit Ummar.
The statement said Israel would release the bodies “after careful consideration” of their fate.
The families of both men were said to be planning to file a lawsuit against the Israeli authorities over their deaths.
The Palestinians, who live in the village, said the men were buried without permission in a Muslim cemetery in the town.
Israel had said it had ordered the bodies’ remains to be returned “under the supervision of the military”.
The statement from the IDF said the military would “not allow the burial of an Israeli citizen in a Palestinian cemetery”.
“Israel will not allow any Palestinian cemetery to be used as a place of burial for Israelis,” it said.
The bodies were found by a Palestinian group in the aftermath of a rocket attack on a UN-run school in Gaza City on Thursday.
The Israeli military said it fired several missiles to intercept the rockets as they hit a crowded market in the central West Bank district of Nablus, but the rockets missed their target.
Palestinian medics said they found the bodies in a “large, shallow grave”.
Palestinian medical sources said they did not know where the bodies had been buried or where they had died.
They said they believed the bodies are in a grave under the rubble.
“There is a large number of dead bodies, including children,” said a medic who gave his name as Sami.
The US condemned Israel’s actions and called on Israel to take immediate steps to free the bodies and return them to their relatives, including in an official statement.
“The United States calls on Israel’s government to immediately immediately free the remains of the Palestinian men who were killed in the attack on UNRWA schools in Gaza on October 6,” the US State Department said.
“We also urge Israel to release the families of the dead Palestinians.”
Israel said the two bodies belonged, according to Israeli media, to Omar Qashya, and that the army would “return them to the families”.
It said it would “immediately provide” the families with information on the whereabouts of the bodies, but did not say how many they had.
Earlier, a spokesman for the Israeli military, Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, said it was the responsibility of the IDF to determine who buried the bodies.
“We don’t know where they were buried, but we will return them,” he told AFP news agency.
“I can’t say whether the bodies belong to Omar or his wife.”
Israel had ordered Israeli forces to “reopen” a UN school in the northern West Bank following an Israeli strike on the school on Wednesday.
The UN said the attack had killed at least nine people, including a pregnant woman.
The strike, carried out on the second day of the school’s Muslim holiday, hit the entrance of the building in a remote area of the Gaza Strip, killing a number of people and wounding scores.
Palestinian officials have said the children had been at the school, and the attack may have been revenge for the school attack in the coastal territory in August.
Israel said it launched the attack to punish the group that had killed four of its children in a rocket strike in August in the city of Ashkelon.
The United Nations says at least two of the victims died in the blast.
The attack was condemned by Hamas, the militant group that governs the Gaza strip, as a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law” and an act of war.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to punish Hamas, which controls Gaza, and called the school attacks “terrorist acts”.
In a statement to the UN, he said that “any Israeli attack on the Gaza border, regardless of its motive, will not be tolerated”.
Israel’s security cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss a possible response to the attack, which the military said targeted a group of suspected Hamas operatives.
Israel, which has a long history of cross-border