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Almost 400 bodies have been found in mass grave in Gaza hospital, says Palestinian Civil Defense

Zeena Saifi, Abeer Salman and Ibrahim Dahman

Authorities in Gaza have concluded their search of mass graves at a hospital in the south of the strip and said they have uncovered a total of 392 bodies, including some still wearing surgical gowns.

Speaking at a Thursday news conference, an official from the Palestinian Civil Defense in Gaza said workers have identified 165 bodies at the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, following the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the area earlier this month.

They are still examining the remaining 227 bodies to determine their identities, Mohammed Al Mighayyer said at the news conference in Rafah. “We found three mass graves, the first in front of the morgue, the second behind the morgue, and the third north of the dialysis building,” he added.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said any suggestion that it had buried Palestinian bodies in mass graves was false, and that a grave at the Nasser complex was dug by Palestinians in Gaza some months ago.

The Gaza Civil Defense acknowledged that around 100 bodies were buried in graves at the Nasser hospital before the IDF operation there.

A CNN stringer who visited the scene Sunday spoke to people who said they had buried the bodies of family members who had been killed in the grounds of the hospital as a temporary measure in January. When they returned after the Israeli military withdrew on April 7, they discovered the bodies had been dug up and then placed in at least one collective grave, not all in the initial spots they were buried in, the stringer said.

The Palestinian Civil Defense also showed graphic images on a TV screen at the news conference. CNN has reviewed the photos that appear to show several almost unrecognizable bodies at the complex. The images also include bodies of decomposed children.

A CNN stringer who visited the scene on Sunday and Monday saw several decomposed bodies in surgical gowns. Photos CNN has reviewed show several bodies still wearing hospital wristbands.

CNN footage also shows several other children’s bodies decomposed in the complex.

Al Mighayyer said the Civil Defense “witnessed the presence of children’s bodies in the mass graves at the Nasser Medical Complex, which proves crimes of genocide.” While the group says it is still examining the bodies, they suspect at least 20 civilians were buried alive in the complex, but it did not explain how it knows this, or offer proof, while it continues to investigate.

Al Mighayyer also claimed there had been cases of executions of patients who had been receiving treatment at the hospital. He said several bodies were found with gunshot wounds to their heads and injuries to their bodies.

CNN is unable to verify these claims and cannot confirm the causes of death of those whose bodies are being unearthed, and it is unknown who is responsible for their deaths.

CNN interviewed a father on camera the moment he identified his 15-year-old son’s decomposed body from the clothes he was wearing.

The man stared at his son’s lifeless body, pointing at him, and said, “that’s my son, I can tell from his blouse.” Footage shows him kneeling and holding his son’s head, inspecting it from the back and confirming once more that it’s his son. “Oh God, he’s dead. He’s dead,” he said, while wiping off his tears.

Al Mighayyer said at the news conference that the Palestinian Gaza Civil Defense in Gaza “discovered torture marks on [some] bodies.” CNN cannot independently verify these claims.

Al Mighayyer added that Israeli forces buried several bodies in plastic bags “at a depth of three meters, which made them decompose quickly.” “The occupation deliberately concealed evidence of its crimes in the Nasser Complex by changing the plastic shrouds more than once,” he claimed. Video recorded by CNN shows bodies wrapped in three different colored shrouds: white, black and blue.

Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) did not respond to specific questions about the allegations being made regarding the grave sites.

In response to a question from CNN about the mass graves, the IDF shared a link to a post on X from its international spokesperson Nadav Shoshani, who commented on a video of Palestinians digging up a mass grave at the complex. Shoshani wrote in the post: “Misinformation is circulating regarding a mass grave that was discovered at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis. The grave in question was dug — by Gazans — a few months ago. This fact is corroborated by social media documentation uploaded by Gazans at the time of the burial, as seen in the video below.”

He added: “Any attempt to blame Israel for burying civilians in mass graves is categorically false and a mere example of a disinformation campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel.”

The IDF has said it has removed dozens of bodies from Gaza for DNA tests in Israel, before returning the remains in containers.

The Palestinian Civil Defense in Gaza called on the United Nations to form an international committee to investigate the mass graves at the Nasser complex.

Calls for an investigation

Asked about the mass graves at Nasser Hospital at a United Nations briefing in New York on Thursday, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN Secretary General said the organization has called for an international investigation but said how that will take place is “unclear at this time”.

“Investigators wherever they come from would need to have access to Gaza which would require the permission of a number of countries including Israel,” he added.

Amnesty International has also called for an investigation into the mass graves at Nasser hospital and another hospital in Gaza, the Al-Shifa medical complex, saying there was an “urgent need to grant access to independent human rights investigators.”

“Mass grave sites are potential crime scenes offering vital and time-sensitive forensic evidence; they must be protected until professional forensic experts with the necessary skills and resources can safely carry out adequate exhumations and accurate identification of remains,” it added.

When approached for comment, the IDF also referred CNN to a previous statement about claims that Israeli troops had buried scores of Palestinians in a mass grave within the grounds of the hospital, saying they are “baseless and unfounded.”

It added: “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 examination was conducted in a careful manner and exclusively in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages.”

The IDF continued: “At the end of February, IDF forces conducted a precise and targeted operation against the terrorist organization Hamas in the Nasser Hospital area. During the operation, about 200 terrorists who were in the hospital were apprehended, medicines intended for Israeli hostages were found undelivered and unused, and a great deal of ammunition was confiscated. The activity was done in a targeted manner and without harming the hospital, the patients and the medical staff.”

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