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Palestinian health workers unearth bodies at the Nasser hospital compound Alamy Stock Photo
Nasser Hospital

Mass graves at Gaza hospitals must be investigated, says EU as Israel calls reports 'baseless'

Gaza’s Civil Defence agency said on Tuesday that health workers uncovered nearly 340 bodies at Nasser hospital.

LAST UPDATE | 24 Apr

THE EUROPEAN UNION has backed a United Nations demand for an independent probe into the reported discovery of mass graves at two Gaza hospitals destroyed in Israeli sieges.

“This is something that forces us to call for an independent investigation of all the suspicions and all the circumstances, because indeed it creates the impression that there might have been violations of international human rights committed,” EU spokesman Peter Stano said.

“That’s why it’s important to have independent investigation and to ensure accountability.”

“We want answers,” said US national security advisor Jake Sullivan. “We want to see this thoroughly and transparently investigated.”

Gaza’s Civil Defence agency said on Tuesday that health workers uncovered nearly 340 bodies of people allegedly killed and buried by Israeli forces at the Nasser complex.

Israel’s army called claims that its troops had buried bodies during its operation at Nasser “baseless and unfounded”.

The army has said around 200 militants were killed, and weapons stockpiles recovered, during its operation at Al-Shifa. 

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

The UN rights office said on Tuesday that international investigators should be involved in a probe into the discovery of the bodies.

The UN rights office said it was “horrified” by the destruction of Gaza’s two biggest hospitals, Al-Shifa in Gaza City and the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Yunis.

khan-younis-gaza-24th-apr-2024-relatives-try-to-identify-the-decomposed-and-dismembered-bodies-of-palestinians-who-lost-their-lives-after-israeli-attacks-in-khan-yunis-southern-gaza-on-wednesday Relatives have been trying to identify the decomposed and dismembered bodies of Palestinians who died after Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis southern Gaza. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

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

Amnesty International has said the discoveries of the graves highlights the need for international organisations to be allowed into Gaza. 

Israel has not allowed foreign NGOs or media into Gaza since it began its siege, bombardment and invasion of the territory.

“The harrowing discovery of these mass graves underscores the urgency of ensuring immediate access for human rights investigators, including forensic experts, to the occupied Gaza Strip to ensure that evidence is preserved and to carry out independent and transparent investigations with the aim of guaranteeing accountability for any violations of international law,” said Amnesty’s Erika Guevara Rosas.

“Lack of access for human rights investigators to Gaza has hampered effective investigations into the full scale of the human rights violations and crimes under international law committed over the past six months, allowing for the documentation of just a tiny fraction of these abuses.”
 
“Without proper investigations to determine how these deaths took place or what violations may have been committed, we may never find out the truth of the horrors behind these mass graves,” she said.
“Amid a total vacuum of accountability and mounting evidence of war crimes in Gaza, Israeli authorities must ensure they comply with the ICJ (International Court of Justice) ruling by granting immediate access to independent human rights investigators and ensuring that all evidence of violations is preserved.”

khan-younis-gaza-24th-apr-2024-civil-defense-teams-continue-to-remove-the-decomposed-and-dismembered-bodies-of-palestinians-who-lost-their-lives-after-israeli-attacks-in-khan-yunis-southern-gaza Civil Defense teams continue to remove the decomposed and dismembered bodies of Palestinians who lost their lives after Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis, Gaza. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Israel has accused Palestinian militant group Hamas of using medical facilities as command centres and to hold hostages abducted during its attack inside Israel on 7 October which triggered the current conflict. Hamas has denied the claims.

The 7 October attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,170 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

In retaliation, Israel launched a military offensive that has killed at least 34,183 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Speaking yesterday at a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, Tánaiste Micheál Martin noted that there have been questions over the accuracy of the death toll figures coming from Gaza and said that after the conflict he fears that “we will witness much, much worse in terms of loss of life and destruction”.

Martin said he has made the point to the European Union that international media and the political world should be let into Gaza to see what is happening.

He said there is nothing like seeing something for yourself, on the ground. 

With reporting by Niall O’Connor, David Mac Redmond and © AFP 2024

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