Israeli forces desecrate 16 Gaza cemeteries, cite ‘no other choice’: Report

Israeli forces desecrate 16 Gaza cemeteries, cite ‘no other choice’: Report

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  • January 21, 2024
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Israel-Gaza War: The Israeli military, in its ground offensive in Gaza, has reportedly damaged at least 16 cemeteries, destroying gravestones, overturning soil, and, in some instances, exposing buried bodies.

According to a CNN report, one incident in Khan Younis involved the destruction of a cemetery. However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN that this destruction was part of an effort to search for the remains of hostages taken by Hamas during the October 7 terror attacks.

Also Read: After 100 Days, Israel-Hamas War Threatens to Spill Beyond Gaza, Disrupt Global Trade

The report further noted that the IDF spokesperson could not explain the destruction of the 16 cemeteries with the provided coordinates by CNN.

The IDF spokesperson acknowledged an inability to explain the destruction of the 16 cemeteries with provided coordinates but said, “The military sometimes has no other choice but to target cemeteries it claimed Hamas uses for military purposes.”

Also Read: Gaza hospital attack: How Hamas and Israel can be stopped from committing war crimes? Explained

Meanwhile, the IDF stated that one of its key missions in Gaza is to rescue hostages and retrieve their bodies, which justifies the removal of bodies from certain gravesites.

“The hostage identification process, conducted at a secure and alternative location, ensures optimal professional conditions and respect for the deceased,” an IDF spokesperson told CNN, adding that bodies determined not to be those of hostages are “returned with dignity and respect.”

‘Her grave isn’t there’

According to CNN, Munther al Hayek, who lost his daughter Dina during the 2014 Gaza war, visited Sheikh Radwan cemetery in Gaza City in early January to pay his respects. Hayek learned that Dina’s grave was not present. In his search for his grandmother’s grave, he faced a similar unsettling reality—it was also nowhere to be found.

It is to be further noted that deliberate damage to religious sites, including cemeteries, is generally considered a violation of international law unless specific circumstances justify such actions for military reasons.

Also Read: Is Israel acting within the laws of war in Gaza?

According to CNN, legal experts have indicated that Israel’s actions could potentially be regarded as war crimes due to the intentional destruction of cemeteries in Gaza, as it goes beyond what is permissible under international law unless those sites are deemed military objectives.

The Israel-Gaza war started on Oct. 7, with Hamas militants breaching border defences to target Israeli bases and towns, resulting in over 1,200 casualties and the seizure of more than 200 hostages.

Meanwhile, Israel conducted widespread airstrikes in Gaza on Saturday, accompanied by the distribution of leaflets in Rafah, urging Palestinians seeking refuge to assist in identifying hostages held by Hamas, as reported by residents.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published: 21 Jan 2024, 09:23 AM IST

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