Palestinian civil defence teams retrieve bodies of those killed by Israeli forces from the grounds of Al Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

Mass Grave in Gaza Points to War Crime, UN Says


Bodies with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes have been discovered in mass graves outside of two hospitals in Gaza, prompting renewed concerns by the United Nations about possible war crimes in the besieged strip.

At Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Younis in central Gaza, 283 bodies were found and 42 identified, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani said. Outside Al-Shifa Hospital in the North of Gaza City, 30 Palestinians were found dead in two graves. The bodies at Al-Shifa were found in a grave outside the emergency building and another in front of the dialysis building, Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva. Twelve have been identified.

Gaza’s Civil Emergency Service said a total of 310 bodies had been found at one mass grave at Nasser so far and that two other graves had been identified, but not yet excavated.

“Among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded, while others were found tied with their hands… tied and stripped of their clothes,” Shamdasani said citing the local health authorities in Gaza. The UN spokesperson said there could be “many more” victims, “despite the claim by the Israeli Defense Forces to have killed 200 Palestinians during the Al-Shifa medical complex operation.”

UN’s Seeks Independent Probe

UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk said he was “horrified” by the destruction of the Nasser and Al Shifa medical facilities in Gaza. “The intentional killing of civilians, detainees, and others who are hors de combat is a war crime,” Türk said while also calling for independent investigations into the deaths.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby called the UN report “deeply concerning,” but could not comment on their veracity. The Israeli military said claims by Palestinian authorities that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) had buried bodies were “baseless and unfounded”, arguing that they examined bodies to look for hostages taken by Hamas but did not bury them.

Gaza’s Health Ministry reported that as of April 22, more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the war began in October 2023, including 14,685 children and 9,670 women. Over 77,000 have been injured, and at least 7,000 are believed to be missing under rubble.

“Every 10 minutes a child is killed or wounded. They are protected under the laws of war, and yet they are ones who are disproportionately paying the ultimate price in this war,” the High Commissioner said. Türk also reiterated his warning against a full-scale Israeli incursion of Rafah, where an estimated 1.2 million Gazans “have been forcibly cornered”.

The High Commissioner also condemned Israeli strikes against Rafah in recent days that mainly killed women and children. This included an attack on an apartment building in the Tal Al Sultan area on 19 April which killed nine Palestinians “including six children and two women”, along with a strike on As Shabora Camp in Rafah a day later that reportedly left four dead, including a girl and a pregnant woman. “The latest images of a premature child taken from the womb of her dying mother, of the adjacent two houses where 15 children and five women were killed, this is beyond warfare,” Türk noted.

Settler Violence in West Bank

The UN further raised concerns about “unabated” violations of human rights in the occupied West Bank. Between 12 and 16 April hundreds of Israeli settlers went on a deadly rampage launching violent raids on Palestinian villages in the West Bank including in al-Mughayyir, Duma, Deir Dibwan, Beitin and Aqraba. At least four Palestinians were killed by either settlers or Israeli forces during the attacks, in which settlers set fire to homes, trees, and vehicles

Settler violence has been organized “with the support, protection, and participation of the Israeli Security Forces”, Türk insisted, before describing a 50-hour long operation into Nur Shams refugee camp and Tulkarem city starting on 18 April. “The ISF deployed ground troops, bulldozers and drones and sealed the camp. Fourteen Palestinians were killed, three of them children,” the UN rights chief said, noting that 10 ISF members had been injured.

The UN also highlighted reports that several Palestinians had been unlawfully killed in the Nur Shams operation “and that the ISF used unarmed Palestinians to shield their forces from attack and killed others in apparent extrajudicial executions”. Dozens were reportedly detained and ill-treated while the ISF “inflicted unprecedented and wanton destruction on the camp and its infrastructure”, the High Commissioner said.

Global rights organization Amnesty International said that the appalling spike in settler violence against Palestinians is part of a decades-long state-backed campaign to dispossess, displace, and oppress Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, under Israel’s system of apartheid. “Israeli forces have a track record of enabling settler violence and it is outrageous that once again Israeli forces stood by and in some cases took part in these brutal attacks,” it added.

Mariya Nadeem Khan

Mariya is a researcher within the Urban Socio-Spatial Development department at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She has an MA in Development Studies from Erasmus University and a Bachelor’s in International Relations from Leiden University. Her research builds on violence, nationalism, and social movements in South Asia and the GCC. Her other areas of interest include non-Western historiography, alternatives to the capitalist world economy, and Urdu literature.

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