Palestinians search for loved ones as bulldozers unearth bodies near Gaza hospital

AFP , Wednesday 24 Apr 2024

Palestinian woman Reem Zidan had been searching for her son for months, and finally found his body on Wednesday as a bulldozer unearthed human remains outside a Gaza hospital.

Nasser Hospital
Palestinian health workers dig for bodies buried in Nasser Hospital compound in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 21, 2024. AFP


"They told me to move away, but I said, 'my son is on the bulldozer'," Zidan told AFP from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, crediting her "maternal instinct" for "knowing" it was the body of 22-year-old Nabil.

As Israeli forces withdrew from Khan Younis, health workers have begun recovering bodies buried next to the city's Nasser Hospital -- southern Gaza's largest.

"I haven't seen him for three months, and today I found him", Zidan said, adding that Nabil was killed by shrapnel from an Israeli air strike.

Gaza's Civil Defence agency said Tuesday that workers had uncovered nearly 340 bodies over several days of people killed and buried by Israeli forces at the hospital.

"We were surprised that inside the Nasser Medical Complex there are mass graves made by the Israeli occupation" military, Civil Defence spokesman Mahmoud Bassal told AFP.

Unlike Zidan, others who went to the Nasser complex in hope of recovering their relatives' bodies could not find them.

Sonia Abu Rajilah, 52, from Khan Younis, said her son 29-year-old son Hazem was buried by his friends near the hospital, but that she and her other sons have not been able to find him.

"Now I wait among the bodies being pulled out, hoping to recognise his body," she told AFP.

She was looking for the beige shirt and grey trousers he was wearing the last time she saw him, the mother said.

Calls for an international investigation into the massacre at Nasser Hospital have grown, including from rights group Amnesty International.

"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," Erika Guevara, the rights group's policy director, said in a statement.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed 34,262 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory's health ministry.

Non-stop bombardment and a weeks-long Israeli siege in mid-February devastated Nasser Hospital, while Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles surrounded it on March 26.

Nawal al-Zaqzouq, 60, told AFP she has been coming daily to the hospital in search of her son, Alaa al-Attal, who was killed on January 1.

Attal died from bleeding after he was shot by a sniper, Zaqzouq said, and was buried by his brother at the hospital.

"We said when things calm down and there's a ceasefire, we'll search for him and retrieve him to bury him in the cemetery," she said.

"But we haven't found his body yet".

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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