Mass grave found at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza — report

Aftermath of a two-week Israeli operation at Al Shifa Hospital. (Photo/Reuters)

A mass grave has been discovered at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza, according to a news report by Al Jazeera Arabic. The discovery was made by Gaza’s Health Ministry and Civil Defence Forces.

The Qatar broadcaster said that nine bodies were unearthed on Monday outside the hospital, located in western Gaza before health officials ceased digging due to concerns about being targeted by Israeli drones seen flying overhead.

The extracted bodies had not completely decomposed, suggesting that the "executions" allegedly by invading Israeli troops occurred recently. Several of the deceased appeared to be hospital patients, as evidenced by the medical bandages and catheters found on them.

Relatives who identified the deceased confirmed that some were indeed patients, including an elderly man, a woman, and a young man in his 20s.

Hospital staff and doctors reported that several individuals were killed outside the hospital’s main entrance, known as building number 80. The medical team also reported witnessing the killings by Israeli troops.

Israeli troops pulled out of Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City recently after a two-week military invasion, during which it said it had battled Palestinian group Hamas inside what was once the Palestinian territory's most important medical complex.

According to eyewitnesses, the Israeli military left scores of casualties and extensive destruction in the hospital and its vicinity.

Israeli military also burned the buildings of the kidney and maternity wards, mortuary refrigerators, and cancer and burn facilities, and destroyed the outpatient clinic building, according to the witnesses.

According to Palestinian medical sources, the hospital is now completely out of service and the army destroyed all medical equipment in the complex, operation rooms, and intensive care units.

The hospital was previously raided on November 16 after it was besieged for one week when its courtyards, parts of its buildings, medical equipment and the power generator were destroyed by Israel.

WHO team at mass grave site

On Monday, World Health Organization teams arrived at the hospital to help identify the bodies that litter the ruins.

Motasem Salah, director of the Gaza Emergency Operations Centre, said the scenes on Monday at the sprawling medical centre were "unbearable".

"The stench of death is everywhere", he said, as a digger went through the rubble and rescue workers pulled decomposed bodies from the sand and ruins.

Salah said Gaza lacked the forensic experts needed to help identify the dead or determine what had happened to them. So they are relying on "the expertise of the WHO and OCHA (UN humanitarian office) delegation", he said.

They are trying "to identify the decomposed bodies and the body parts that were crushed" from wallets and documents, Salah said.

Relatives were also there "to ascertain the fate of their sons, whether they have been killed, are missing, or have been displaced to the south," said Amjad Aliwa, the head of Al Shifa's emergency department.

He said they wanted to identify "their sons and ensure they receive a proper burial".

"However, we lack the necessary equipment, and time is not on our side," Aliwa told the AFP news agency. "We must complete the job before the bodies decompose."

Salah said the psychological impact of this "unwatchable" process on the families is unbearable, in another WHO video from the scene shared with AFP.

"Seeing their children as decomposing corpses and their bodies completely torn apart is a scene that can't be described. There are no words for it."

'Hospitals should never be militarised'

Several worried relatives walked among what the WHO said were "numerous shallow graves" outside the devastated emergency department and the administrative and surgical buildings.

"Many dead bodies were partially buried with their limbs visible," it said in a statement after its first visit to the site Friday.

"Safeguarding dignity, even in death, is an indispensable act of humanity," the WHO insisted.

A "place where life was given is now a place that now reminds (us) only of death," said Athanasios Gargavanis, the WHO surgeon leading its mission on Monday. "Hospitals should never be militarised."

AFP video images from Al Shifa on Monday showed the remains of several bodies being recovered from one of the courtyards of the hospital and put into body bags.

For the son of one of the missing, Ghassan Riyadh Kanita, whose 83-year-old father Riyadh had taken refuge in the hospital, the news was not good.

"My nephew called us and he told me that they found the body at the entrance of Al Shifa," he said. "We came and they told us that they found the body."


Source: TRT