Mass graves, hasty burials: Funeral rites ignore Gaza dead amid Israel’s war | Israel-Palestine conflict news

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Says el-Balah, Gaza strip – It was late on Friday night, and 28-year-old Amani al-Hor had just returned home when the bullet hit her parents’ home next door.

Amani had spent an hour or two there that evening, playing a card game with her cousin to distract them from the sound of aerial bombing. She spoke to her sisters and then took her four children, who she said were “going to be a nuisance”, back to their own house.

Eight families spanning three generations were under her parents’ roof that evening, in the Nuseirat refugee camp. Amani’s parents, their married children, grandchildren and other relatives who had been displaced from their homes had all gathered to be together.

Shortly after 8pm, an Israeli airstrike targeted the house. At least 40 members of Amani’s family were killed, including her parents, almost all of her siblings and all of their children.

The attack also damaged Amani’s house.

Mass graves in Deir al-Balah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital
As hospital morgues overflow, bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks undergo funeral rites [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

“I just found the walls and the roof falling in on us,” she said. “I didn’t hear the sound of the shot. It was like being in a grave. Somehow, I grabbed my four children in the dark and we got out.”

Still in a state of horror, she began to count the members of her family who had been killed.

“My sister and her four children; my brother, his wife and four daughters; my other sister-in-law, her son and two daughters – but her husband, my other brother, survived,” she said. “It was a crowded building and the children made a lot of noise. Most of them are still under the rubble.”

“I wish I could see my father,” said Amani. “I only saw his back that night, he was telling my sisters something when I was leaving. My mother’s body is torn to pieces. At the hospital, I only saw her arms, and her intestines had spilled out of her stomach.”

Amani had been very close to her sisters, talking to them every day.

“I would like to be killed by them,” she said.

Mass graves in Deir al-Balah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital
A man saying goodbye to a member of the al-Hor family, after an Israeli airstrike killed at least 40 members in the Nuseirat refugee camp. [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

There is no room left in cemeteries

More than 9,000 Palestinians – most of them women and children – have been killed by Israeli forces since they began their attack on the Gaza Strip on October 7. More than 32,000 others were injured.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed every day and night since the bombing began, overwhelming hospitals, which are now in a state of collapse due to the total blockade imposed by Israel . Electricity, clean water and fuel have all run out, and there are no medical supplies or life-saving treatments. At least 15 hospitals and medical centers have had to stop working, meaning that patients will have to be transferred to the remaining hospitals, which are already overcrowded.

The large number of casualties over the past 24 days has led to funeral ceremonies and hasty burials, with the added agony of laying family members to rest in mass graves.

“Before the war, funerals had rituals that followed,” said Mukhtar al-Hor, 57, a relative of Amani. “Dozens or hundreds of people would pray over the deceased before carrying them to the cemetery for burial. Now, there are hardly a handful of people available to pray over their loved ones. “

Mass graves in Deir al-Balah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital
The cemetery in Deir el-Balah has run out of space and as a result, mass graves are being dug to be necessary [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

Mukhtar said that at least 18 bodies had so far been pulled out of the rubble in the Nuseirat refugee camp, but some of them were unidentifiable body parts.

“I can’t describe what it’s like to bury your family in a mass grave,” he said. “They’re without the funeral rites we’re used to in normal times.”

Diab al-Jaru, the Mayor of Deir el-Balah, said that the city has seen at least 20 major attacks by Israel over the past four weeks against its residents and displaced people. sought refuge there.

“So far, more than 400 people have been killed in Deir el-Balah alone,” he told Al Jazeera. “The sheer number of people killed means we have run out from a room in the cemetery, which was already full, because before the war we used to bury two or three people from the same family in one grave.”

Now, the mayor said there is no other option but to bury people in mass graves, usually separated by gender.

“On Friday night alone 150 people were killed. We had no choice but to bury them all together,” al-Jaru said.

Mass graves in Deir al-Balah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital
The mayor of Deir al-Balah said the city has seen at least 20 murders by Israel [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

Shrouded, prayed over and buried

Palestinians often refer to those killed in Israeli attacks as “martyrs” and their funeral processions usually have a deep meaning for the people of their communities.

But the current special attack on Gaza has cut short not only these processions, but also the funeral ceremonies that would normally follow.

In normal circumstances, after being washed, the body of a loved one is taken to the family home where women say their final goodbyes. Then the body is taken to the mosque to be prayed by the men, before being carried either in a carriage or carried by people in a large congregation to the cemetery.

Abu Ammar is a supervisor for washing bodies according to Islamic rituals at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir el-Balah. He said that he has been receiving hundreds of bodies every day since the attack began almost four weeks ago.

Now, the funeral prayer is performed in the hospital grounds immediately after the body has been washed, with only a few people or anyone available present, before it is taken to be buried. to be buried in a large grave without tombstones instead of one with a marble headstone.

“Before the war, the bodies of adults would be wrapped in three different ashes,” he said.

Abu Ammar and washed the bodies of the dead
Abu Ammar, who washes the bodies of dead people at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, said he had never seen such bodies before. [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

“We would wash them with soap and water twice, and the third time, we would use camphor. But under the current circumstances, we don’t have the time or the means to do that. Instead, we immediately cover them in one piece due to the scarcity before us, and we try to remove the blood from their faces. “

Torn body parts, he said, are first wrapped in plastic wrap and then covered with linen, so as not to stain it.

Due to the large number, the hospital administration had to put some of the bodies outside in the courtyard.

Ammar, who has a quiet demeanor, said he has seen a shocking number of bodies.

“I have found bodies burned beyond recognition, bodies with limbs ripped off, skulls emptied and broken, bodies emitting chemical odors,” the 45-year-old said.

“The most violent weapons, made by the US, are being used against us,” he said. “This attack has crossed all red lines and violated all international human rights laws. The world must stop this barbaric war against us.”

Mass graves in Deir al-Balah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital
More than 400 people have been killed in Deir el-Balah alone since Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip began on October 7 [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]
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