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Evidence of torture at Gaza mass graves

Tehran Times – Palestinian authorities say mass graves found in Gaza show that the victims of Israeli military raids at hospitals had been tortured to death. The United Nations has demanded an independent probe.

Civil defense workers have uncovered hundreds of bodies that they say were tortured and murdered by Israeli occupation forces during the regime’s military assaults on hospitals in Gaza, some of which were under siege for weeks. 

Palestinian authorities say the victims, including women, children, patients, and hospital staff, had their hands tied and stripped of their clothes with visible signs of torture. 

Among the hospitals under the spotlight are the Nasser Medical Complex in the southern-central city of Khan Younis, where the number of bodies exhumed so far has reached nearly 400 and al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza where reports suggest hundreds of bodies have also been recovered. 

The Israeli army ended its occupation of Khan Younis on April 7, after four months of military operations in the region that included troops, backed by tanks laying siege to Nasser Hospital. 

According to ReliefWeb, a humanitarian information service provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israeli tanks and snipers attacked the hospital on more than one occasion. 

On February 22, the Israeli occupation forces withdrew from the hospital after raiding it for one week, only to storm the medical complex for a second time in the same month. 
Last month, eyewitnesses, including doctors, spoke of being subjected to widespread abuse by Israeli troops who arrested hundreds of people at the medical complex. 

Palestinian authorities have dismissed claims by Israel that locals had used hospital grounds to bury the dead (from Israeli attacks), saying the bodies identified in the mass graves by their families were alive before Israeli forces stormed the hospital and are now being discovered deep under the ground. The Palestinian media center has accused the Israeli army of summary executions. 

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, said the organization has called for an international investigation. Asked how that would take place considering the Israeli blockade of the enclave, Dujarric stressed that “investigators wherever they come from would need to have access to Gaza”. 

On Thursday, the UN deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, hinted that the presence of UN and international bodies on the ground do not have the necessary resources to oversee a probe, stressing that “an independent, effective and transparent investigation into the deaths at Nasser and al-Shifa hospitals must be conducted”. 

Amnesty International has noted that “the absence of forensic experts and the decimation of Gaza’s medical sector as a result of the war and Israel’s cruel blockade, along with the lack of availability of the necessary resources for the identification of bodies such as DNA testing, are huge obstacles”. 

Earlier this week, the UN rights office said it was “horrified” at the discoveries, stating that “disturbing reports continue to emerge about mass graves in Gaza in which Palestinian victims were reportedly found stripped naked with their hands tied, prompting renewed concerns about possible war crimes”. 

The UN rights office also stressed the need for an investigation following the recovery of hundreds of bodies “buried deep in the ground and covered with waste” at Nasser and al-Shifa hospitals. 

“Among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded, while others were found tied with their hands…tied and stripped of their clothes,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

The UN body’s spokesperson also expressed deep concern over Palestinian bodies buried in two graves in the courtyard of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. 

“There are reports that the hands of some of these bodies were also tied,” Shamdasani said, adding that there could be “many more” victims. 

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor says its members on the ground in Gaza have witnessed medics exhuming hundreds of bodies at al-Shifa hospital’s vicinity, many of whom were subjected to “premeditated murder as well as arbitrary and extrajudicial executions while they were detained and handcuffed”. 

The Palestinian Red Crescent says another mass grave in the vicinity of Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza may also contain hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed and buried by the Israeli army. 

As more corpses are uncovered, a growing number of countries and international bodies have also demanded an independent and transparent investigation. 

South Africa, which has led the case against genocide in Gaza at the International Court of Justice said it is “appalled by the recent grim discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of Palestinian civilians at Nasser Hospital in Gaza.” 

“These grim findings call for immediate and comprehensive investigations to ensure justice and accountability,” the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation added. 

Amnesty International warned that “the harrowing discovery of these mass graves underscores the urgency of ensuring immediate access for human rights investigators, including forensic experts, to the occupied Gaza Strip to ensure that evidence is preserved and to carry out independent and transparent investigations to guarantee accountability for any violations of international law.” 

The discovery of mass graves at different hospitals in the north and south of the Gaza Strip strongly indicates that multiple Israeli army units are systematically involved in such horrific practices. 

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