Reports mount of mass graves at Gaza hospitals, some bodies found ‘without heads’

A third mass grave was discovered Wednesday at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza’s media office announced, including some containing bodies without heads, raising concerns of potential war crimes after Israeli military sieges on the territory’s hospitals.

The new discovery raises the total to seven mass grave sites between three Gaza hospitals, containing the bodies of about 520 men, women and children.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the crimes of genocide and the continuous killing committed by the occupation army against our Palestinian people,” the media office said. “We hold the US administration, the international community and the occupation fully responsible for these mass graves and this blatant aggression.”

The United Nations called for an investigation late last month after the first mass graves were discovered at Al-Shifa, Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis and Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza.

The mass graves contained some people stripped naked with their hands tied, further raising concerns over potential war crimes, the U.N. said, describing the bodies as “buried deep in the ground and covered with waste.”

U.N. human rights experts said in a report Monday they were “horrified” over the reports, adding that many of the bodies found were “reportedly showing signs of torture and summary executions, and potential instances of people buried alive.”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel called the reports of mass graves “incredibly troubling” late last month and said the Biden administration has questioned the Israeli government about them.

The Israeli military confirmed the discovery of mass graves late last month, saying its forces previously exhumed bodies buried at the sites in search of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the conflict.

Israeli forces besieged the hospitals for days earlier this year, claiming Hamas militants were inside among civilians. The claims could not be independently verified.

The discovery comes as the Israeli military begins a push into Rafah, capturing the border crossing between the city and Egypt on Tuesday. The Biden administration has strongly urged the Israeli government not to move into Rafah, citing the need to limit civilian casualties in the conflict.

The U.N. human rights experts said in the report that the Israel-Hamas war has been especially dangerous for women and children, with about 14,500 of the nearly 35,000 Palestinians killed in the war children and another 9,000 of them women.

About three-quarters of the estimated 75,000 injured are women, the experts said. The group also denounced the Israeli government for a lack of a proper investigation regarding repeated reports of systemic sexual assault against Palestinian women in Israeli custody.

“We are appalled that women are being targeted by Israel with such vicious, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, seemingly sparing no means to destroy their lives and deny them their fundamental human rights,” they said.

The U.N. has been one of the loudest voices in urging a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. Hamas said it had accepted an Egyptian and Qatari-negotiated cease-fire agreement Tuesday, though Israeli leaders have rejected the deal.

The Hill has reached out to the Israeli military and State Department comment.

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