UN calls for investigation into mass graves found at 2 Gaza hospitals raided by Israel – AP explains

(25 Apr 2024)

Jerusalem – 25 April 2024
1. SOUNDBITE (English) Joe Federman, Associated Press:
"Palestinian health officials in the Gaza Strip are continuing the difficult task of digging up bodies from mass graves outside of two major hospitals. These hospitals in Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Younis were both the scenes of Israeli military operations. So far, hundreds of bodies have been exhumed. Now, Israel says it has nothing to do with these mass graves. It says it didn’t bury anyone, and that people buried there likely were either killed in battle or were patients who died inside the hospitals. But the international community is asking some tough questions. The United States has demanded that Israel provide more information. The United Nations is calling for an international investigation. It wants to know who was buried there and what were the circumstances behind these deaths. Now, under international law, hospitals receive special protections from combat. However, Israel says that Hamas operated in these hospitals, used them for military purposes. And when that happens, it says these protections are removed."

ARCHIVE: Khan Younis – 22 April 2024
2. Various of Civil Defence excavator uncovering bodies from temporary burial ground inside the main (Nasser) hospital
3. Various of bodies in bags being carried by Civil Defence staff
4. Wide of people gathering near uncovered bodies, Civil Defence staff carrying body
5. Tracking of Civil Defence staff carrying one body, placing it on ground
6. Various of bodies on ground in blue bags

The United Nations called Tuesday for “a clear, transparent and credible investigation” of mass graves uncovered at two major hospitals in war-torn Gaza that were raided by Israeli troops.

Credible investigators must have access to the sites, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, and added that more journalists need to be able to work safely in Gaza to report on the facts.

Earlier Tuesday, U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk said he was “horrified” by the destruction of the Shifa medical center in Gaza City and Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis as well as the reported discovery of mass graves in and around the facilities after the Israelis left.

He called for independent and transparent investigations into the deaths, saying that “given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators.”

“Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law,” Türk said. “And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees and others who are ‘hors de combat’ (incapable of engaging in combat) is a war crime.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel on Tuesday called the reports of mass graves at the hospitals “incredibly troubling” and said U.S. officials have asked the Israeli government for information.

The Israeli military said its forces exhumed bodies that Palestinians had buried earlier as part of its search for the remains of hostages captured by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. The military said bodies were examined in a respectful manner and those not belonging to Israeli hostages were returned to their place.

The Israeli military says it killed or detained hundreds of militants who had taken shelter inside the two hospital complexes, claims that could not be independently verified.

The civil defense said some of the bodies were of people killed during the hospital siege. Others were killed when Israeli forces raided the hospital.

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