UN rights chief 'horrified' by mass grave reports at Gaza hospitals

Palestinian authorities report finding hundreds of bodies in mass graves at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis this week

Reuters April 23, 2024
People work to move into a cemetery bodies of Palestinians killed during Israel's military offensive and buried at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, April 21, 2024. PHOTO: REUTERS


UN rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday he was "horrified" by the destruction of the Nasser and Al Shifa medical facilities in Gaza and reports of mass graves containing hundreds of bodies there, according to a spokesperson.

Palestinian authorities reported finding hundreds of bodies in mass graves at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis this week after it was abandoned by Israeli troops. Bodies were also reported at the Al Shifa site following an Israeli special forces operation.

The Israeli military said claims by Palestinian authorities that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) had buried bodies were "baseless and unfounded". It said forces searching for Israeli hostages had examined bodies previously buried by Palestinians near Nasser hospital and had returned the bodies to where they were buried after they were examined.

"The examination was conducted in a careful manner and exclusively in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages. The examination was carried out respectfully while maintaining the dignity of the deceased," it said in a statement.

Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the rights organisation was raising the alarm because multiple bodies had been discovered. Turk said he had been horrified by the reported mass grave discoveries and the hospitals' destruction, she said.

"Some of them had their hands tied, which of course indicates serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and these need to be subjected to further investigations," Shamdasani said.

Read also: Israeli troops storm back into eastern Khan Younis

Turk, who was represented by Shamdasani at a UN press briefing, also decried Israeli strikes on Gaza in recent days, which he said had killed mostly women and children.

He also repeated a warning against a full-scale incursion on Rafah where some 1.2 million civilians are crowded together, saying this could lead to "further atrocity crimes".

Violence has also surged in the occupied West Bank since Israel's war on Hamas began on Oct. 7, sparked by the latter's cross-border attacks on Israel which killed 1,200 people according to Israeli tallies.

Palestinian health authorities said 14 Palestinians had been killed on Saturday in the Nur Shams area in one of the heaviest tolls in the West Bank in months.

Shamdasani said the UN human rights office had received reports that some of the victims in Nur Shams had been killed in apparent extrajudicial executions. The Hamas media office has accused Israel of executions but has not shared visual or other evidence. Israel denies carrying out executions.

Israel's military has previously said a number of fighters were killed or arrested in the West Bank raid and at least four soldiers were wounded.


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