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The first bodies were exhumed from the mass graves of Al-Shifa hospital after the Israeli siege.

The first bodies were exhumed from the mass graves of Al-Shifa hospital after the Israeli siege.

(CNN) — Health workers in northern Gaza exhumed the first bodies from mass graves at Al-Shifa hospital and its surroundings on Tuesday, after Israeli forces killed hundreds of Palestinians and left their bodies to decompose during a two-week siege.

At least 381 bodies have been recovered near the compound since Israeli forces withdrew on April 1, Gaza Civil Defense spokesman Mahmoud Bassal said on Tuesday, excluding the total number of those buried inside the hospital compound.

Many of the decomposed remains they found were buried or found above ground, officials told CNN on Monday. Israeli tanks crushed others, leaving some of the dead completely mutilated and unrecognizable, Basel said.

Witnesses and civilians who were trapped inside the hospital when it was hit say the surroundings were “littered with bodies,” according to Basel. “The occupation forces swept away these bodies and buried them in the ground,” he added.

“We came here to recover the remains of the bodies in the sand dunes where the Israeli occupation created a huge mountain,” Al-Shifa's doctor Ahmed Alaiwa told CNN.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Tuesday In the post Some bodies were found under mud or plastic sheets. “Hospitals should never be militarized,” he said in a video message.

A step UN Report, staff from the World Health Organization and the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) arrived at Al-Shifa Hospital earlier this month. According to the United Nations, Israeli authorities have repeatedly denied access to the compound to humanitarian groups.

“Shifa has literally turned into a graveyard… there are still bodies in this yard,” Jonathan Vitale, OCHA's senior humanitarian affairs officer, said in a video message. Published in X Saturday.

Died at Gaza Al Shifa Hospital

A United Nations (UN) team inspects the grounds of Al-Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital, on April 8, 2024 as it crumbles after a two-week Israeli offensive.

In response to CNN's request for comment, the Israel Defense Forces, along with the ISA (Israel Security Agency), said they had “completed operations against terrorist operatives and infrastructure” in Al-Shifa, adding that they had “arrested about 500 suspects linked to terrorist organizations and eliminated 200 terrorists.” .

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“The operation was carried out following accurate information from the ISA and the Intelligence Directorate about the activities of terrorist organizations in the area, including the use of Shifa as a command and control center and military headquarters,” he said.

“Forces found large quantities of weapons and intelligence documents throughout the hospital, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with terrorists, and conducted the battle without harming medical staff and patients.”

He added that the arrested have been transferred to Directorate of Investigation's ISA and Section 504 for further investigation.

Al Shifa Hospital was destroyed

Palestinians walk past the destruction of al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza on April 1. Gaza health workers told CNN they had exhumed the first bodies from mass graves dug by Israeli forces. Credit: Mohammad Hajjar/AP

The IDF confirmed the withdrawal from al-Shifa on April 1, saying “hundreds of terrorists were killed or captured”.

“The terrorist base in Shifa has been destroyed,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said. CNN cannot independently verify the IDF's reports.

Israel has said for years that Hamas militants seek refuge in mosques, hospitals and other civilian locations to avoid Israeli attacks. Hamas has repeatedly denied these claims.

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza after the October 7 attack on Israel by the militant group Hamas that killed at least 1,200 people, including 36 children, and took more than 250 hostage.

Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed at least 33,360 Palestinians and wounded another 75,993, according to the enclave's health ministry.

“The smell of the dead is everywhere,” Motachem Salah, a Gaza health ministry official leading rescue efforts, told CNN.

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“We are trying to identify the bodies of these citizens, while their families are waiting for news about their loved ones: whether they are alive or missing.”

to Shifa

Palestinian civil defense and forensics personnel recover bodies on the grounds of al-Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital, which was demolished by a two-week Israeli offensive, on April 8, 2024. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

War crimes charges

Salah, an official at the Ministry of Health, said that after a two-week siege, the hospital complex's specialized facilities were “completely out of service”. The official warned that Israeli bombing had overwhelmed Gaza's medical system and depleted resources for rescue and relief operations.

“We don't have pathologists or experts in documenting aggressive crimes,” he said.

UN Experts accused Israel of “denying access to health care to those most in need” in an April 3 report.

“The world is witnessing the first genocide shown to the world in real time by its victims and not justified by Israel in accordance with the laws of war,” the statement added. “The extent of the brutality has yet to be fully documented due to its scale and severity, and clearly represents the most brutal attack on Gaza's hospitals.”

Attacking hospitals during war is prohibited under international law, but those rules change if enemy combatants use the facilities to attack the enemy.

Palestinians search for their loved ones

CNN video from al-Shifa on Monday showed large blocks of damaged concrete falling from damaged buildings. White-helmeted UN staff clambered over layers of rubble while dozens of local workers dug with shovels for bodies. Others delicately carry the rotting remains inside their white shrouds. Palestinian children watched wearily as Israeli planes whirred overhead.

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Gazans flocked to the hospital to search for their missing relatives. Kazan Riad Qunaitha said her elderly father was among those found in the mass graves.

“He's a civilian,” Kunaita told CNN. “What do you mean? They took them from their home and killed them.” CNN could not independently verify that Kunaita's father died at the hands of Israeli forces.

They raided his relatives' home next to the IDF compound and told them to flee south, leaving his father near the fence of the surgery department where his body was found on Monday, he said.

“Since then we lost track of him and his body was missing until today. It's been almost a week since they left. We didn't stop searching until today and we just found him.”

Al Shifa Hospital

On April 8, 2024, teams from Gaza's Department of Health, Civil Defense, Crime Scene Investigation and Forensics examine remains at Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital.

On April 8, 2024, teams from Gaza's Department of Health, Civil Defense, Criminal Investigation and Forensics examine remains at Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital. Ramsi Mahmoud/Anatolu/Getty Images
Another Palestinian at the hospital, Nuha Swalem, told CNN she was searching for her missing husband, who was arrested by Israeli forces during the raid.

“If they were buried or detained, we don't know their fate or my husband's,” she added. “Tell me where our children are. Tell me where my husband is.”

Palestinians in Al-Shifa told CNN they wanted to give their loved ones a proper funeral, lamenting the shame of their deaths. The UN is working with Gaza's Ministry of Health to provide dignified burials for the unidentified bodies found in Al-Shifa. In the post On Tuesday.

“We want to recover these mortal remains and give them a dignified burial,” said Alaiwa, one of Al-Shifa's doctors. “Parents and families want to know the fate of their loved ones if they are dead or detained or if they have disappeared.”

Palestinian mother Swailem said, “Why were they detained? What crime did they commit? The only crime is that we are Palestinians.”

— Khadr Al-Za'anoun of Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, contributed to this report.