Israel desecrated my grandfather’s grave

Israel’s military vehicles in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. 

Yasser Qudih Xinhua News Agency

Israel has been committing heinous crimes in Gaza since the beginning of the current war. Among those crimes are the invasion of cemeteries and the desecration of graves.

At a time when Israel had imposed an internet and communications blackout, its military recently drove tanks into the area west of Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

Nasser Medical Complex is located in this area. Many of my relatives are buried in a nearby cemetery.

During the internet blackout, we relied on the radio for news. That was how we were informed that the Israeli army had dug up and bulldozed graves.

When my mother heard that news, she reminded us that members of her family were buried in the cemetery in question.

My brother went there and saw that Israel had destroyed the graves of my grandfather and grandmother. We cried a lot when we learned that.

Ragheb, my grandfather, died almost exactly two years ago. He hated wars very much.

Whenever we were under a major attack, he would try to tell us that the difficult days would pass. He would give us support.

Despite how he displayed great patience, Israel’s previous wars on Gaza affected his mental health.

During this current war, I told my mother that my grandfather would have been extremely sad if he was still alive and witnessing the horrors being inflicted on Gaza.

Older people suffer terribly from being displaced and from the fears of bombing.

It is painful to have the grave of a loved one destroyed. It feels like Israel is erasing everything related to Gaza’s people.

War against the dead?

Is this now a war against the dead, as well as the living?

There are no fighters in cemeteries. Or any living people.

The loss of graves adds to Gaza’s grief.

The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has accused Israel of targeting most cemeteries in Gaza.

These attacks violate international law, which requires that the dead must be respected at times of war.

Khaled al-Sir, 55, is a resident of Khan Younis.

After a night of intense violence – largely directed at Nasser Medical Complex and its vicinity – Israel withdrew its tanks from the area under attack. In the morning, al-Sir went to check on a local cemetery.

“We found that the graves were destroyed,” he said. “Some of them did not have bodies in them any more. The Israeli army had stolen them.”

“I saw a young man crying next to the cemetery because he could not find his mother’s grave,” al-Sir added.

“He said that he used to come to visit her grave every day and tell her about his day and what made him happy and what saddened him. That alleviated his grief for her. How can he visit her grave now that she doesn’t have one?”

Raeda Salama, 35, was shocked to hear that her father’s grave had been attacked.

“My mother cried a lot when she learned that my father’s grave had been destroyed,” Salama said. “It was as if he had died again.”

“She used to go and visit him every month, make some sweets and distribute them to people in the cemetery, asking them to pray from my father. By destroying his grave, the Israeli occupation has now forbidden her from visiting him.”

Ruwaida Amer is a journalist based in Gaza.