Nearly 300 bodies found in mass grave at Khan Younis hospital, says Gaza Civil Defense

(CNN) — A mass grave containing nearly 300 bodies was discovered in a hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, Gaza Civil Defense workers said on Monday, following the departure of Israeli forces from the area earlier this month. month.

Yamen Abu Suleiman, director of Civil Defense in Khan Younis, told CNN on Monday that “73 bodies were recovered today” in the courtyard of the Nasser Medical Complex, bringing the “total number to 283.”

Suleiman indicated that some of the bodies had been found with their hands and feet tied, “and there were signs of executions in the countryside. We do not know if they were buried alive or if they were executed. Most of the bodies are decomposing.”

CNN cannot verify Suleiman’s claims and cannot confirm the causes of death among the bodies found.

CNN contacted the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment following the discovery of the mass grave, specifically on whether the bodies found at the hospital had been dug up for DNA testing and whether they had been reburied. CNN sent several questions to the IDF on Sunday and Monday.

Palestinian health workers recover bodies buried in a mass grave at the Nasser Medical Hospital compound in Khan Younis, Gaza, on April 21. Credit: Ahmad Salem/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Earlier, a Khan Younis Civil Defense spokesperson and head of the search mission, Raed Saqr, told CNN that they are searching for the bodies of another 400 people missing after the Israeli army left the area on April 7.

A CNN correspondent who visited the site on Sunday said people buried the bodies of relatives who died on the hospital grounds in January as a temporary measure. When they returned after the Israeli withdrawal, they discovered that the bodies had been exhumed, apparently because the IDF was using DNA testing to determine whether any of the hostages held in Gaza were among the dead.

The bodies were then placed in at least one collective grave, the journalist said.

A man at the scene told CNN he had not yet found the body of his 21-year-old son, who died in January.

“I haven’t found it yet. We had buried him there. But we can’t find it. And we want to make him a worthy grave.”

Another man, who said his brother Alaa also died in January, said: “I’m here looking for him. I have been coming to the hospital for the last two weeks trying to find him. Hopefully, I can find it.”

Pointing to a fallen palm tree, the man said his brother was temporarily buried there.

“I had buried it there on the side, but I can’t find it. The Israelis dug up the bodies and exchanged them. “They did DNA tests and lost all the bodies.”

The man’s mother said they have searched for two weeks and have been unable to find his body.

Another woman told CNN she spent 10 days searching for the body of her daughter, who was buried on the hospital grounds in late January after a nearby residential building was attacked.

He said the Israelis “excavated the bodies and changed them. “She and her uncle’s wife were buried at the same time.”

“We have found the body of your uncle’s wife. But we can’t find the rest,” her mother added.

Saqr told CNN on Sunday that Civil Defense personnel have searched the medical complex for bodies for three days so far and that the operation is ongoing.

“We have information that there are 400 missing people and we continue searching for the rest of the bodies.”

The IDF has said it took dozens of bodies out of Gaza for DNA testing in Israel, before returning the remains in containers.

The area around the Nasser Medical Complex witnessed intense shelling and fighting in January and February. At the time, CNN reported on the burial of bodies on hospital grounds due to a lack of safe access to cemeteries.

Journalist Tareq Al Hilou contributed to this report from Gaza.

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