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Middle East Crisis: The United States and 17 other countries call on Hamas to release the hostages

Middle East Crisis: The United States and 17 other countries call on Hamas to release the hostages

Palestinian officials in Gaza on Thursday raised the number of bodies discovered in a mass grave on the grounds of a hospital to 392 from 283, amid conflicting accounts between Israel and authorities in Gaza about how and when some bodies were buried.

“This is the largest mass grave since the beginning of the war,” Mahmoud Basal, spokesman for Gaza Civil Defense, a search and rescue department inside Hamas-controlled territory, said on Thursday, before calling for an international investigation.

A New York Times analysis of social media videos and satellite images concluded that Palestinians excavated at least two of the three burial sites weeks before Israeli forces raided the complex.

Authorities in Gaza say mass graves were dug on hospital grounds before the Israeli raid there in February, but accuse Israel of later opening the site to add bodies.

It is not clear how those buried in the Nasser Medical Complex in the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza died, or exactly when they died.

While The Times was unable to determine the cause of death of the individuals, the initial burials took place in January and February amid a weeks-long Israeli offensive in the city.

On Thursday, Israel denied accusations that it was responsible for digging graves in the complex, but earlier said it had opened them in search of the bodies of hostages who were kidnapped in Gaza.

Major Nadav Shoshani, spokesman for the Israeli army, said in a statement: “Misinformation is spreading regarding a mass grave that was discovered in Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis.” “The grave in question was dug – by Gazans – a few months ago. This fact is confirmed by social media documents. Any attempt to blame Israel for burying civilians in mass graves is categorically false and merely an example of a disinformation campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel.

A body found at Nasser Hospital was transported on Tuesday. Videos shared on social media and verified by The New York Times show that two sites containing multiple mass graves were excavated in…AFP – Getty Images

In the chaos of the six-month war, it has become common for Gazans to bury the dead on hospital grounds, in backyards and elsewhere, often hastily and without ceremony. But the high body count indicates the human toll the war has taken and how hospitals have become hotspots of tension.

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Medical centers were often the first places people displaced by Israeli bombing took refuge, and their lands hosted thousands in temporary tents. Israeli officials say the medical centers were the focus of the raids because Hamas fighters are hiding inside and under the facilities, and that this is the only way to root out the militant group. Hamas and medical workers denied the accusation. Help groups, Researchers And International bodies They have increasingly described Israel's dismantling of medical capabilities in Gaza as “systematic.”

Videos shared on social media and verified by The New York Times show that two sites with multiple mass graves in Nasser were excavated and bodies buried starting in January.

Satellite images show that the large mass grave first dug by Gazans under palm trees in the southern part of the complex has been rammed by Israeli forces, including with a bulldozer, lending credence to the Israeli claim that they exhumed and reburied the bodies.

There is no clear sign that Israeli forces dug new graves or added bodies to existing graves.

On April 21, videos were shared on social media showing a third grave on the other side of a brick path that runs next to the initial mass grave. This new grave was created during or after the Israeli occupation of the hospital land, but it is unclear who dug it. Signs written in Arabic on many graves is reading “Anonymous martyr.”

The discovery of the graves last weekend led to international calls for an independent investigation.

Joining the European Union and the United Nations, President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, urged the Israeli government to “thoroughly and transparently” investigate the “deeply disturbing” reports of mass graves.

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“We have been in contact at multiple levels with the Israeli government,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday. “We want answers,” he added.

The discovery of the mass grave in Nasser Hospital, where a woman was buried on Tuesday, comes two weeks after a similar mass grave was found in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza…AFP – Getty Images

The discovery of the mass grave in Nasser Hospital comes two weeks after a similar mass grave was found in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

In a statement this week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, issued a statement in which she said: Quote It was reported that some of the bodies were found with their hands “tied and stripped of their clothes.”

It was not possible to independently verify these reports, which came from the authorities in Gaza, and the movement did not provide evidence for its claim.

At least one of the bodies exhumed since Sunday was seen wearing blue medical clothing in A video Photographer Haseeb Al-Wazir posted it on social media. It appears that the person's hands are tied together. This body was lying next to other bodies that were exhumed from the mass grave in the palm grove.

Doctors at the hospital and the Ministry of Health in Gaza said that some people who tried to escape from the Al-Nasser complex during the Israeli raid were shot by Israeli soldiers, and some of them were killed or wounded.

While this claim cannot be independently verified, several videos verified by The Times show gunshot victims lying on the ground just outside the North Gate; Others Displays People use a rope to pull water bottles across the street into the hospital complex to avoid the route where the victims were shot.

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At the time, the Israeli military said it had “opened a safe route” to evacuate civilians in the area, but did not respond to questions about reports that it had opened fire on Palestinians who were trying to leave the hospital.

Human rights investigators and forensic experts need immediate access to Gaza to ensure evidence of graves is preserved in order to ensure accountability for any violations of international law, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International's Director of Research and Advocacy.

“Without proper investigations to determine how these deaths occurred or what abuses may have been committed, we may never discover the truth about the atrocities behind these mass graves,” she said in a statement. statement.

The Israeli army left Nasser Hospital in late February and continued to operate in Khan Yunis before withdrawing from southern Gaza earlier this month. The withdrawal allowed Palestinian emergency services – and family members – to begin searching for the missing.

Jihad Al-Bayouk (26 years old) said that he buried his older brother in Nasser Land on January 24 after he was killed in what he said was an Israeli drone strike on their home in Khan Yunis. “I made sure to remember the place so I could come back later and bury him properly in a real cemetery,” Al-Bayouk, 26, said by phone on Wednesday.

He said that when he returned after Israeli forces withdrew from the area, he could not find his brother's body or the palm trees he used to locate it. So he started digging every day, with a crowd of others searching for the bodies of their loved ones.

Al-Bayouk said: “The digging continued for several days” before he found his brother’s body on Monday in a place different from the place where he buried him. He said two of the three layers of plastic he had wrapped him in were gone, and the third layer was torn but held together with plastic clips.

Corrected on

April 25, 2024


Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misstated the timing of the initial burials. They started in January, not mid-February.

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