Mourning at a mass grave

Some of the bodies uncovered from the mass grave at Nasser Medical Complex, Khan Younis. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

Walid al-Akhras is searching for his son Said.

During the first week of February, 19-year-old Said left his home near Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. He did not come back.

Once the Israeli army withdrew from Khan Younis earlier this month, Walid tried to find Said in the city’s streets. There was no sign of him.

Later in the month, a mass grave was discovered in Nasser Medical Complex. Walid headed there as soon as he heard about the grave.

He pays close attention to each body that is unearthed. Said had “long hair and big eyes” so Walid is looking for someone with the same features.

Identification is arduous, however, as the bodies have been in the ground for some time.

“I cry for every corpse that comes out of the ground – as if it is the corpse of my own son,” Walid said.

“I want to find his body,” Walid said. “I want to hug him. I want to bury him in a marked grave.”

“His mother misses him,” he added. “His sisters miss his voice and how it filled our home. I miss him so much.”

Painful scenes

Nabila al-Sufi is from Khan Younis. She spent a few months taking shelter in Nasser Medical Complex after being uprooted from her own home.

Israel’s ground invasion of the surrounding area then forced her and her family to leave for al-Mawasi further south.

She goes back to the hospital now so that “I can console the women who are looking for their children.”

Nabila is horrified by the images she has seen, particularly of skulls separated from bodies.

“This war must stop,” she said. “Our hearts can not bear more painful scenes like this.”

To date, a few hundred bodies have been unearthed from the mass grave. On a single day recently, more than 70 corpses were found.

Civil defense workers believe there are many more which still have to be exhumed.

As some of the bodies are handcuffed, there is a strong indication that the people involved were arrested and summarily executed.

“Israeli soldiers stripped dozens of patients, displaced persons and medical personnel naked before executing them in cold blood by firing squad,” said Ismail al-Thawabta, a spokesperson for the Gaza administration.

Nasser Medical Complex is one of numerous hospitals to have been attacked by Israel during the current genocide.

The situation at Nasser Medical Complex is grimly reminiscent of that at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. More than 380 bodies were recovered there earlier this month after Israel subjected it to a siege lasting a few weeks.

Israel has displayed no mercy to healthcare workers or facilities. In total, 26 hospitals – including Nasser Medical Complex – are now out of service due to Israel’s extreme violence.

Ruwaida Amer is a journalist based in Gaza.