Sat. May 25th, 2024

The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Volker Türk expressed deep concern over reports of mass graves at hospitals in Gaza, following Israeli military operations. Türk’s statement came after Palestinian officials claimed that 283 bodies were exhumed from the grounds of Nasser Hospital, with some bodies discovered with their hands tied.

Palestinian authorities stated that bodies were buried in the courtyard of Nasser Hospital due to ongoing fighting that prevented access to cemeteries. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has categorically denied any involvement in burying bodies, asserting that claims of mass graves were “baseless and unfounded.” During a two-week operation at the hospital in Khan Younis, the IDF said troops examined bodies buried by Palestinians to locate potential hostages but maintained that the examination was done respectfully.

However, Palestinian officials and medical personnel contradicted the IDF’s claims, alleging that bodies were moved or buried by Israeli forces during the operations. Mahmoud Basal, a spokesperson for the Hamas-run Civil Defense force, told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Today program that bodies had been moved from the makeshift cemetery in Nasser Hospital’s courtyard to another location during the raid.

Volker Türk, along with other international observers, has called for independent investigations into these allegations to ensure transparency and accountability. He underscored that hospitals are entitled to special protection under international humanitarian law and that any intentional killing of civilians or detainees is a war crime. The UN Human Rights Office is currently corroborating these reports and has confirmed that many of the bodies showed signs of mistreatment, with some stripped of their clothes.

The broader context of the situation in Gaza remains tense after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on 7 October. Israeli military operations following the attack have led to significant destruction in Gaza, with thousands of casualties reported, most of them children and women. While the IDF defends its operations as targeting Hamas fighters, medical staff and international observers have raised concerns about the impact on civilians and critical infrastructure.

In response to these alarming developments, Türk has urged international investigators to look into the reported incidents at Nasser and al-Shifa hospitals, as well as recent Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah. These ongoing operations have resulted in substantial civilian casualties and have raised significant human rights concerns. The IDF maintains that its actions are aimed at dismantling Hamas military capabilities and that it takes precautions to minimize harm to civilians.

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