UN demands investigation after mass graves found at Gaza hospitals raided by Israel

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‘This is a crime against humanity’: Gaza doctor on mass grave uncovered at hospital

The United Nations has called for an “independent, effective and transparent investigation” into the discovery of mass graves at two Gaza hospitals that were besieged and raided by Israeli troops this year.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a statement he was “horrified” by the scenes reported from both the Nasser and Al Shifa medical complexes in the besieged enclave.

“Given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators,” Türk said. “Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law. And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees, and others who are hors de combat is a war crime,” he added, referring to non-combatants.

A mass grave with 324 bodies was uncovered this week at the Nasser Medical Complex in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis by Gaza Civil Defense workers following the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the area.

Col. Yamen Abu Suleiman, Director of Civil Defense in Khan Younis alleged that some of the bodies had been found with hands and feet tied, “and there were signs of field executions. We do not know if they were buried alive or executed. Most of the bodies are decomposed.”

CNN is unable to verify Suleiman’s claims and cannot confirm the causes of death of those whose bodies are being unearthed.

Previously, a Khan Younis Civil Defense spokesman and head of the search mission, Raed Saqr, told CNN that they are searching for the bodies of another 400 missing people after the Israeli military left on April 7.

A CNN stringer who visited the scene Sunday said that people had buried the bodies of family members who had been killed on the grounds of the hospital as a temporary measure in January. When they returned this month after the Israeli military withdrew, they discovered the bodies had been dug up and placed in at least one collective grave, the stringer said. It’s not currently known how many bodies were initially buried there.

In response to a CNN inquiry about the mass graves at Nasser Medical Complex, the Israeli military said on Tuesday that the “claim that the IDF buried Palestinian bodies is baseless and unfounded.”

People and health workers unearth bodies found at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (AFP/Getty Images)

“During the IDF’s operation in the area of Nasser Hospital, in accordance to the effort to locate hostages and missing persons, corpses buried by Palestinians in the area of Nasser Hospital were examined,” the Israeli military said, adding that the examination was done “exclusively in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages.”

Once it was determined that the bodies didn’t belong to the Israeli hostages, they “were returned to their place,” it said.

Hamas-led militants kidnapped more than 250 people from Israel during their attack on the country on October 7. There are 133 hostages from Israel in captivity there now, 35 of whom are believed to be dead.

CNN reached out to the military on Wednesday for comment regarding Türk’s remarks, to which it said it had nothing more to add beyond previous comments.

US says reports are ‘incredibly troubling’

This month, health workers in Gaza exhumed corpses from mass graves in and around another hospital, Al Shifa, after they said Israeli forces killed hundreds of Palestinians and left their bodies to decompose during their two-week siege of the medical complex.

At least 381 bodies were recovered from the vicinity of the complex since Israeli forces withdrew on April 1, Gaza Civil Defense spokesperson Mahmoud Basal said, adding that the total figure did not include people buried within the grounds of the hospital.

The US State Department on Tuesday expressed concern over the discovery of mass graves.

The reports are “incredibly troubling,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said. “And we’re inquiring on this with the Government of Israel.”

“I’m not going to speak to the specifics, but it should be no surprise to you that we engage with the government of Israel at all levels often many times, multiple times a day, at all hours,” he added.

CNN’s Abeer Salman, Ibrahim Dahman, Kareem Khadder and Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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