UN rights chief horrified by mass grave in Gaza hospitals

We feel the need to raise the alarm because clearly there have been multiple bodies discovered," says spokesperson.

GENEVA (Reuters): U.N. rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday that he was “horrified” by the destruction of the Nasser and Al Shifa medical facilities in Gaza and reports of mass graves containing hundreds of bodies there, according to a spokesperson.

Palestinian authorities reported finding scores of bodies in mass graves at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis this week after it was abandoned by Israeli troops. Bodies were also reported at the Al Shifa site following an Israeli special forces operation.

“We feel the need to raise the alarm because clearly there have been multiple bodies discovered,” said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, adding Turk said he had been horrified by the reported mass grave discoveries and the hospitals’ destruction.

“Some of them had their hands tied, which of course indicates serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and these need to be subjected to further investigations.”

She added that the U.N. human rights office was working on corroborating Palestinian officials’ reports that 283 bodies were found at Nasser and 30 at Al Shifa.

According to those reports, some of the bodies were buried beneath piles of waste and included women and older people.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Civil Emergency Service said on Tuesday that a total of 310 bodies had been found at one mass grave at Nasser so far and that two other graves had been identified, but not yet excavated.

Israel’s military and its diplomatic mission in Geneva were not immediately available for comment on the Jewish Passover holiday. Israel says Hamas militants use hospitals as bases and that its forces killed around 200 militants at Al Shifa and avoided harming any civilians.

Turk, who was represented by Shamdasani at a U.N. press briefing, also decried Israeli strikes on Gaza in recent days, which he said had killed mostly women and children.

He also repeated a warning against a full-scale incursion on Rafah where some 1.2 million civilians are crowded together, saying this could lead to “further atrocity crimes”.

Violence has also surged in the occupied West Bank since Israel’s war on Hamas began on Oct. 7, sparked by the latter’s cross-border attacks on Israel which killed 1,200 people according to Israeli tallies.

Palestinian health authorities said 14 Palestinians had been killed on Saturday in the Nur Shams area in one of the heaviest tolls in the West Bank in months.

Shamdasani said the U.N. human rights office had received reports that some the victims in Nur Shams had been killed in apparent extrajudicial executions. Israel’s military has previously said a number of militants were killed or arrested in the West Bank raid and at least four soldiers wounded.

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