‘Israel destroys cemeteries in Gaza in recent airstrikes’
Israeli strikes damage six cemeteries, restoration of graves impossible at some places, say Palestinian officials
The recent Israeli military strikes on the Gaza Strip in Palestine that lasted for 11 days did not even spare the dead buried in various cemeteries, besides leaving a trail of death and destruction.
The Palestinian Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Ministry has identified at least six cemeteries of Al-Tunisi, Ali bin Marwan, Sheikh Shaban, Al-Sifa, Jabalia Al-Balad, and Al-Far in the Gaza Strip that have been damaged in the military strikes.
Since the cease-fire was enforced on May 21, families in Gaza are flocking to the cemeteries to restore the graves of their beloved ones. In some instances, they have transferred the bodies to other cemeteries, where graves were destroyed beyond repair.
"On the night of May 14 which coincided with the second day of Eid al-Fitr, the cemetery was targeted by Israeli airstrikes which caused massive destruction in all corners of the cemetery," said Khaled Nasrallah, the guard of the Al-Tunisi cemetery in Al-Shejaia neighborhood, east of Gaza city.
He said more than 200 graves were completely damaged, while dozens of others were partially destroyed, as well as residential buildings adjacent to the cemetery.
Those completely destroyed do not have any trace of the remains of the dead, said Nasrallah.
Surprised at the motive of Israel in targeting cemeteries, Nasrallah said the attacks left “no safe place in Gaza during the Israeli aggression”.
Nasrallah said only hatred can explain the reason behind the targeting of cemeteries.
"I don't know why the dead were targeted in their graves and what their fault is,” said Nasrallah, adding that cemeteries are located in the middle of civilian neighborhoods housing graves of people who died even before the establishment of Israel.
Nasrallah said the Palestinian families whose loved ones have been buried in Al-Tunisi cemetery were quick to begin searching for the remains immediately after the aggression ended.
"Whoever found the bones and remains of his dead, moved them and buried them in another cemetery to preserve what was left of them,” he said.
Remains got mixed
However, some families, unfortunately, did not find any of the remains of their loved ones as the heavy bombardment had left no trace of them.
Asked about attempts to restore the graves and rebury the remains, Nasrallah said it was impossible as the remains of the dead have got mixed.
Tension escalated across the Palestinian territories since April over an Israeli court verdict to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem in favor of Jewish settlers. The situation flared up after Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque and assaulted worshippers inside.
The tension spread to the Gaza Strip, with Israel launching airstrikes that killed at least 290 Palestinians, including children and women, and left behind a trail of destruction. Health centers, media offices, as well as schools were among the structures targeted.
The truce in the early hours of May 21 ended Israel’s 11-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
*Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar in Ankara