Gaza war: UN calls for international probe into mass graves at hospitals

Some were allegedly found with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said

By AFP

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A man tapes off the area as rescuers and medics search for dead bodies inside the damaged Al Shifa Hospita in Gaza City on April 8. Photo: Reuters file
A man tapes off the area as rescuers and medics search for dead bodies inside the damaged Al Shifa Hospita in Gaza City on April 8. Photo: Reuters file
Palestinian forensic and civil defence work in a closed area at the grounds of Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest hospital, which was reduced to ashes by a two-week Israeli raid, on April 8, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group.(Photo by AFP)
Palestinian forensic and civil defence work in a closed area at the grounds of Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest hospital, which was reduced to ashes by a two-week Israeli raid, on April 8, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group.(Photo by AFP)

Published: Tue 23 Apr 2024, 9:47 PM

The United Nations called Tuesday for an international investigation into reports of mass graves at two Gaza hospitals destroyed in Israeli sieges, saying war crimes might have been committed.

The UN rights office said it was "horrified" by the destruction of Gaza's biggest hospital, Al-Shifa in Gaza City, and its second largest, the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Yunis.


Gaza's Civil Defence agency said on Tuesday that health workers had uncovered nearly 340 bodies, updating an earlier figure, of Palestinians allegedly killed and buried by Israeli forces at the Nasser complex.

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Israel's army dismissed claims that its troops had buried bodies during its operation at Nasser as "baseless and unfounded".

The UN rights office demanded "independent, effective and transparent investigations into the deaths".

"Given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators," UN rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.

Hospitals, which are protected under international law, have repeatedly come under Israeli bombardment over more than six months of war in Gaza.

Israel has accused Palestinian group Hamas of using medical facilities as command centres and to hold hostages abducted during its attack inside Israel on October 7.

Hamas has denied the claims.

"Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law," Turk said. "And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees and others who are hors de combat is a war crime."

The UN rights office said it did not have access to independent information as to what happened at the two hospitals.

But spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said efforts were under way to corroborate reports and details given by Gazan authorities.

"Victims had reportedly been buried deep in the ground and covered with waste," she told reporters in Geneva, adding that older people, women and wounded were reportedly among the dead.

'Found with their hands tied'

Others were allegedly "found with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes".

As for Al-Shifa, the Israeli army has said around 200 Palestinians were killed during its military operation there.

The World Health Organization earlier this month described that hospital as an "empty shell" containing many bodies.

Around 30 bodies were reported found buried in two graves in the courtyard of Al-Shifa.

"And there are reports that the hands of some of these bodies were also tied," Shamdasani said, which would constitute "serious violations" of international law.

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