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23 Apr, 2024 15:00

UN human rights chief ‘horrified’ by reports of mass graves at Gaza hospitals

Hundreds of bodies of women and the elderly and others with their hands tied, have reportedly been found in the aftermath of an Israeli raid
UN human rights chief ‘horrified’ by reports of mass graves at Gaza hospitals

UN rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday that he was “horrified” by the destruction of the Nasser and Al-Shifa medical facilities in Gaza by Israeli troops and reports of mass graves discovered there.

Palestinian authorities reported finding scores of bodies in mass graves at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis this week after it was abandoned by the IDF. Bodies were also reported at the Al-Shifa site following an Israeli special forces operation.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run Civil Emergency Service, cited by Reuters, a total of 310 bodies had been found so far in one mass grave at the Nasser hospital, the main health facility in southern Gaza. Two other mass graves had reportedly been identified but not yet excavated.

“We feel the need to raise the alarm because clearly there have been multiple bodies discovered,” said Turk, while addressing a UN briefing via a spokesperson.

“Some of them had their hands tied, which of course indicates serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and these need to be subjected to further investigations,” the UN human rights chief stated.

The UN human rights office said it was working on corroborating Palestinian officials’ reports, claiming that some of the bodies were buried beneath piles of waste and included women and older people.

Israel says it was forced to battle inside hospitals because Hamas militants use the facilities as bases, an assertion that medical staff and the militant group itself deny. West Jerusalem reported that its forces killed around 200 militants at Al-Shifa and avoided harming any civilians.

Turk also decried Israeli strikes on Gaza in recent days, which he said had killed mostly women and children.

The UN rights chief once again warned Israel against a full-scale incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where some 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge since the beginning of the Hamas-Israel conflict. The offensive could lead to “further atrocity crimes,” Turk cautioned.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that Israel cannot achieve its goal of “total victory” without launching an offensive on Rafah.

The ongoing hostilities in Gaza were triggered by a Hamas incursion into southern Israel in October, in which some 1,200 people were killed and hundreds taken hostage.

During the Israeli offense in response, at least 34,183 Palestinians have been killed and 77,143 injured, mostly women and children, according to the local health authorities. Thousands more bodies likely remain uncounted under the rubble across the devastated enclave, local authorities believe.

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