Israel’s Forces Have Ravaged Over 16 Cemeteries in Gaza

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Devastation in Gaza as Israeli armored vehicles leave tread marks on a destroyed cemetery near Al Nasser Hospital on January 17th. (Image Credit: CNN)

Yesterday, on January 7th, reports said that 16 different cemeteries in Gaza were destroyed by Israeli forces. As part of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian war, there were recent updates on the damages struck in the Gaza Strip. Many cemeteries were desecrated, gravestones ruined, and bodies unearthed. 

 According to an investigation led by CNN, The Israel Defense Forces reported that in Khan Younis (southern Gaza) as the struggle continued, to find the remains of the hostages taken by Hamas during the terror attacks on October 7th, Israeli forces had removed bodies from graves near the area. Hamas (an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement) is a Palestinian militant group who were keen on replacing Israel with an Islamic state. Specifically on October 7th, the war was started by the Hamas’ attacks on southern Israel. It was a massacre, where over 12,000 civilians were killed and around 250 hostages were taken back to Gaza. These hostages are the people Israeli forces are looking for now. The attacks in Khan Younis were mainly meant to find the hostage bodies and return them to their families and loved ones—as a sign of respect. 

Satellite imagery and footage of the cemeteries being destroyed have been circulated widely on social media platforms, showing large crater-like holes in the cemeteries, taking up dozens of graves. A published photo by the IDF shows areas of the Bani Shueila cemetery bulldozed. The intentional demolition of the graves and other religious sites in southern Gaza in the absence of the military is being considered to be categorized as a potential war crime. The destruction of these sacred places is raising significant concerns about the ethical issues surrounding these actions.

This event has violated the principles of humanitarian law and rules of war, according to Rule 115 of customary international human law in Article 130 of the Geneva Convention of 1949 states: “The dead must be disposed of respectfully and their graves respected and properly maintained.” As this rule has been violated, Israeli forces might face consequences for their actions. 

Many of these graves have been repurposed by the Israelis into military outposts. The recent detailed pictures show the current situation, with the Israeli military and an array of vehicles in the area that was formerly a cemetery. Notably, Al Falouja, a cemetery near Gaza City, shows telltale signs of military activity, with track marks atop destroyed graves. A closer look would reveal numerous heavily armed military tanks, reinforcing the military presence in this vicinity. 

From the perspective of the civilians who have to keep on enduring the ongoing conflict, they are experiencing the loss of their deceased family members for a second, more painful, time. Muther al Hayek, a distraught civilian, struggles to locate his daughter’s grave, a reminder of her tragic death during the 2014 Gaza War. Speaking to CNN, al Hayek describes the scenes of destruction caused by the occupation forces, stating “The occupation forces destroyed and bulldozed them, the scenes are horrific.” 

 Muther al Hayek’s plea calls for international intervention. It echoes the cries of many Palestinians, urging other parts of the world to intervene and protect the civilians caught in the crossfire. This update emphasizes the urgent need for global attention. The world needs to come together to safeguard the well-being of the people in Palestine.

Written by Divya Saha

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