Palestinians bury dozens in Gaza after Israel hands over bodies

Many onlookers cover their noses with masks as about 100 bodies are placed in graves in the southern city of Rafah

Published : 30 Jan 2024, 03:39 PM
Updated : 30 Jan 2024, 03:39 PM

Dozens of unidentified Palestinians were laid to rest at a mass burial in Gaza on Tuesday after Israeli authorities handed over bodies they had been holding in Israel.

Many onlookers covered their noses with masks as about 100 bodies were placed in graves in the southern city of Rafah before bulldozers piled sand on them.

Palestinian officials said the bodies included victims of the Israel-Hamas war and corpses that had been dug up as Israeli forces pushed through Gaza. Israel did not comment on the handover or on the assertion that some corpses had been dug up.

"They were buried anonymously following Islamic Sharia. We don’t know where they were injured or even their names," said Abu Taha, a doctor, at the scene.

The bodies were photographed before burial and the victims' injuries documented, he said.

"God willing, after the war ends, DNA and other tests will happen but at the time being, it’s very difficult to do the tests needed to identify the names and identities of the deceased," he told Reuters.

Health officials confirmed they had received 100 bodies, "including full bodies, half bodies and body parts."

The corpses were handed over earlier on Tuesday at the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza, Palestinian officials said.

The bodies arrived at an open space in Rafah where workers and medics were waiting next to a long line of freshly dug graves. The bodies, wrapped in blue plastic bags, were transferred to the location in a cooler truck.

Israel began its military offensive in Gaza after Palestinian militants from the coastal enclave went on the rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Many of Gaza's residents have been driven south since then to locations including Rafah.

Among the crowd was Issa Abu Sarhan, who was trying to search for his son among the bodies.

"I’m searching for my son, he might or might not be among them," the father said.

"I had buried my son in Al-Nimsawi cemetery in Khan Younis (in southern Gaza), and I heard that the Jews took the bodies from the cemetery, so I came here when I heard that bodies have been received to search for my son," he said.