Photo: Agence France-Presse In the al-Tuffah district of Gaza City, in the north of the Palestinian territory, bodies wrapped in shrouds emerge from the rough ground. The army has invaded the site with bulldozers, according to an AFP photographer who visited the site several days ago. This photo was taken on January 11th.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse in the Palestinian territories
- Middle East
Some bodies are exhumed by the Israeli army in search of hostage remains, others are hastily buried, sometimes in hospitals or schools. In Gaza, even the corpses are not at peace.
In the al-Tuffah district of Gaza City, in the north of the Palestinian territory, bodies wrapped in shrouds emerge from the rough ground. The army has invaded the site with bulldozers, according to an AFP photographer who visited the site several days ago.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs claims that 2000 graves have been opened or destroyed in the territory.
Questioned by AFP, the Israeli army did not comment on the use of bulldozers. But she admits to acting “in specific locations where information indicates that the bodies of hostages can be located.”
“The bodies which are proven not to be those of hostages are returned with dignity and respect,” she said in a press release.
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The unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli figures.
In response, Israel vowed to “annihilate” the Palestinian Islamist movement and launched a vast military operation in Gaza, which left 26,637 dead, the vast majority of them women, children and adolescents, according to the latest assessment Monday from the Hamas Ministry of Health.
“Their souls trembled”
From the school in Deir al-Balah governorate (central Gaza Strip) where she lives with many other people displaced by the war, Saida Jaber remembers the moment she saw images of the destroyed cemetery of the camp Jabaliya on social networks.
“I thought my heart was going to stop,” says this woman whose father, grandparents and other relatives are buried at the site. “I felt that their souls were trembling […]. I can't imagine how anyone dares to dig into graves and violate the sanctity of the dead. »
Violent fighting over the past five months, which has displaced a large majority of Gaza's 2.4 million residents, has made it impossible for many of them to find a proper cemetery.
We had to make it as simple as possible.
In a school that has become a shelter for displaced people from the Maghazi refugee camp (center), a woman places her hand on the ground. His daughter is buried there.
She “died in my arms. We waited a day and a night, but we couldn’t take him to the emergency room,” she said, without giving her name. She claims rockets hit the school complex, causing gas cylinders to explode.
A man who approaches the site claims that 50 bodies are buried there, three or four bodies in each grave, their names written on a brick or on an adjacent wall.
“Dying of Sorrow”
Since the start of the conflict, AFP journalists have seen mass graves throughout the Gaza Strip. Including in the al-Shifa hospital, where bodies were buried in rows, the graves separated by stones or tree branches planted in the ground.
“If we had gone to the cemetery, [the Israelis] could have bombed us and we would have died,” says Arfan Dadar, 46, who lives in a tent with his family on the compound. 'hospital.
He explains that his 22-year-old son was shot on his way back to the hospital. “I marked his grave,” but “now the hospital grounds are full of mass graves. I barely recognize my son's grave.”
Some hope to be able to hold a proper funeral once the war is over. Wael al-Dahdouh, head of the Al-Jazeera television station's Gaza bureau, says he “had no choice” but to bury his son, killed by an Israeli strike, in an overcrowded cemetery in south of Rafah, near the Egyptian border.
“We will transfer him to the martyrs' cemetery in [the city of] Gaza after the war. We want his grave to be near us, so that we can come and see him and pray for him. »
Displaced in Deir al-Balah, Saida Jaber wants to return to Jabaliya to check that her loved ones are still buried there. “I would die of grief if they were taken away. »