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Mass graves, unclaimed our bodies and overcrowded cemeteries. The struggle robs Gaza of funeral rites – Hartford Courant


DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — It was neither the place nor the time for a correct goodbye, mentioned Omar Dirawi. Not right here, on this dusty subject strewn with lifeless folks wrapped in blankets and zipped up in physique baggage. And never now, as Israeli airstrikes crashed round him for the third week, erasing extra of his neighborhood and sundering tons of of households and friendships.

But on this October week in Gaza’s central city of Zawaideh, the 22-year-old Palestinian photojournalist buried 32 members of his household who have been killed in Israeli air raids final Sunday.

Dirawi’s aunts, uncles and cousins from Gaza Metropolis had heeded Israeli army evacuation orders and brought refuge in his residence farther south. Days later Dirawi was unloading their our bodies from the again of a truck, digging a slender trench partitioned with cinder blocks and reciting abbreviated funeral prayers earlier than dusk, when Israeli warplanes screeched and everybody ran indoors.

“There’s nothing that feels proper about this,” Dirawi mentioned of the mass burial. “I haven’t even grieved. However I had no selection. The cemetery was full and there was no area.”

Palestinians say this struggle is robbing them not solely of their family members but in addition of the funeral rites that lengthy have supplied mourners some dignity and closure within the midst of insufferable grief. Israeli strikes have killed so many individuals so rapidly that they’ve overwhelmed hospitals and morgues, making the conventional rituals of dying all however unattainable.

And together with the whole lot else stolen by the bombardments, Palestinians on Saturday added one other loss: mobile and web service. A couple of in Gaza who managed to speak with the surface world mentioned folks might not name ambulances or discover out if family members residing in several buildings have been nonetheless alive.

Since Oct. 7, when Hamas mounted a bloody and unprecedented assault on Israel, the Israeli army’s response has left over 7,700 Palestinians lifeless, mentioned the Gaza-based Well being Ministry. Of the lifeless, it added, practically 300 haven’t been recognized. Concern and panic have been spreading Saturday as Israel expanded its floor incursion and intensified bombardment.

An estimated 1,700 folks stay trapped beneath the rubble as Israel’s air raids impede and imperil civil protection staff, certainly one of whom was killed throughout a rescue mission Friday. Generally it takes days for medics to get better our bodies. By then corpses are sometimes too swollen and disfigured to be recognizable.

“We’ve got tons of of individuals being killed every single day,” mentioned Inas Hamdan, a Gaza-based communications officer for the U.N. Palestinian refugee company. “The entire system in Gaza is overwhelmed. Individuals are coping with the lifeless nonetheless they will.”

Overcrowded cemeteries have compelled households to dig up long-buried our bodies and deepen the holes. That’s how survivors interred Bilal al-Hour, a professor at Gaza’s Al Aqsa College, and 25 of his members of the family killed Friday in airstrikes that razed their four-story residence in Deir al-Balah.

Al-Hour’s brother, Nour, exhumed his household’s outdated plots within the native cemetery Friday to put the newly deceased inside. His arms darkish with grave dust, he turned breathless itemizing every relative being lowered into the bottom.

“There’s Bilal’s son together with his spouse and kids, his different youthful son and naturally his daughter who completed highschool final yr and was purported to be a health care provider,” he mentioned earlier than trailing off and quoting the Quran. “To Allah we belong, and to him is our return.”

Overflowing morgues have compelled hospitals to bury folks earlier than their kin can declare them. Gravediggers have laid dozens of unidentified our bodies facet by facet in two giant backhoe-dug furrows in Gaza Metropolis now holding 63 and 46 our bodies, respectively, mentioned Mohammed Abu Selmia, the final director of Shifa Hospital.

The nightmare of ending up as an nameless physique piled up in a morgue or chucked into the dust has more and more haunted Palestinians in Gaza.

To extend the possibilities of being recognized in the event that they die, Palestinian households have begun carrying identification bracelets and scrawling names with marker on their kids’s legs and arms.

In some circumstances, our bodies have decomposed a lot they’re unrecognizable even to their kin. In different circumstances, not a single member of the family might survive to assert the lifeless.

“We regularly discover this throughout our work, even simply (Thursday) evening in Gaza Metropolis when 200 folks have been killed, there have been names and ID numbers written in ink on the kids’s our bodies,” mentioned Mahmoud Basal, spokesperson of the Palestinian Civil Protection. “It’s a ache I can’t describe, to see that.”

Gaza’s Awqaf ministry, which is in control of spiritual issues, now urges hasty burials and authorizes the digging of mass graves as a result of “giant numbers of individuals killed and the small quantity of area obtainable.” Every Gaza governorate has at the very least two mass graves, authorities say, some holding over 100 folks.

Within the crowded Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza on Wednesday, a fierce barrage of Israeli airstrikes leveled a complete block — some 20 multi-story buildings — killing 150 folks and trapping extra beneath the ruins, residents mentioned. Shell-shocked survivors staggered out of the hospital, not figuring out what to do with the lifeless.

“We’ve got no time to do something and no area wherever,” mentioned 52-year-old Khalid Abdou from the camp. “All we will do is dig an enormous gap with our arms. Then we throw our bodies inside.”

Residents of Nuseirat peered into dozens of blood-smeared physique baggage organized exterior Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital on Thursday, trying to find acquainted faces, Abdou mentioned. Employees labeled some physique baggage “unknown” earlier than shoveling them into mass graves. Households have been buried collectively.

When attempting to sleep, Abdou mentioned he hears sounds from that evening — the thunder of the blast mixing with screams of shock and the cries of youngsters.

However what retains him up most, he mentioned, is the thought that nobody washed the our bodies of the lifeless or modified their garments earlier than burial. Nobody lovingly shrouded their our bodies, as is customary in Islam, or held a poignant service.

And positively nobody served the standard bitter espresso and candy dates to mates and kin paying condolences.

“In Islam we now have three days of mourning. However there’s no approach are you able to observe that now,” Abdou mentioned. “Earlier than the mourning ends you’ll most likely be lifeless, too.”


DeBre reported from Jerusalem.



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