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In Gaza, dozens of unidentified bodies buried in ‘mass grave’

The bodies of dozens of unidentified people were buried on Wednesday in a mass grave at a cemetery in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip.



KHAN YUNIS, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES — The bodies of dozens of unidentified people were buried on Wednesday in a mass grave at a cemetery in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Wrapped in blue tarpaulin, the bodies were lowered on stretchers, some of them stained with blood, into a sandy pit that was gradually enlarged by a digger. Some were the size of children.

“As these martyrs had no one to say goodbye to, we dug a mass grave to bury them. They are unknown martyrs,” Bassem Dababesh of the emergency committee at the religious affairs ministry told AFP.

The remains, which bore only numbers, had come from the Indonesian and Al-Shifa hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip, according to members of the committee at the burial site.

The Indonesian hospital on the edge of the Jabalia refugee camp, which had been hit by Israeli air strikes, was partly evacuated on Monday, said Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled health ministry.

Bodies everywhere

“There were bodies everywhere. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Umm Mohammed al-Ran, a woman evacuated from the Indonesian hospital towards Rafah in the south.

“Wounded people died in front of us as they bled out,” she told AFP.

“The stench of death was everywhere in the hospital. The wounded were crying out for painkillers, but the doctors didn’t have any to give them.”

She held up her phone to show a video she had taken. It showed worms crawling from the infected wound on a patient’s leg.

It’s a similar situation at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the territory’s largest.

On 14 November, that hospital’s director Mohammad Abu Salmiya said 179 bodies had been buried in a mass grave inside the complex.

Among them were seven premature babies who died because there was no electricity to power their incubators.

The bodies that arrived at Khan Yunis on Wednesday would have been “detained” by Israel before being released after representations from “third countries and the United Nations”, according to the emergency committee at the religious affairs ministry.

Khalil Siam, director of a transport company, told AFP that the bodies had arrived the night before, and it was not known “if they’re decomposing or not”.

AFP contacted the Israeli military and several UN agencies operating in Gaza, but no reply had been received late Wednesday.

‘Despair and loss’

There are thousands of dead in the Gaza Strip, and the question of burials has shocked many Gazans.

Since the war began, war dead have been buried hastily in private plots of land and even a football field, when cemeteries are full or inaccessible because of the fighting.

A week after the war began, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said there was a shortage of body bags.

“Every story coming out of Gaza is about survival, despair and loss,” he said.

The war began on October 7 after Hamas launched the worst attack in Israel’s history that left around 1,200 people dead, most of them civilians, according to the Israeli government.

Hamas also seized 240 hostages.

Israel launched a major bombing campaign and then a ground offensive in Gaza which, according to the Hamas government, has killed 14,100 people, thousands of them children.

Thousands of dead are also believed to be buried under the rubble.


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