Mass graves discovered at Nasser Hospital as Israel prepares for Rafah ground invasion

Over 300 bodies discovered in mass graves at Nasser Medical Complex, Khan Younis, as Israeli authorities prepare for Rafah ground invasion

April 24, 2024 by Peoples Health Dispatch
Israel continues to besiege the Nasser Medical Complex. Photo: via Palestine Chronicle

Two hundred days have passed since Israel began its latest aggression against Gaza, killing more than 34,200 people. As the Israeli armed forces prepare for a ground invasion of Rafah, they continue to devastate the healthcare landscape in the regions north of the area.

Most recently, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) finally vacated Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis after occupying the area for weeks. Similar to Al-Shifa Hospital, Nasser was one of the most important health centers providing care and shelter throughout the war. Similar to Al-Shifa, after the IOF left the hospital grounds, Palestinian civil defense teams discovered hundreds of corpses buried in mass graves.

Read more: Israel intensifies assault on healthcare in Gaza. Only 11 hospitals are partially functioning

In a matter of days, over 300 bodies were found in the graves. According to local reports, some bodies bore marks of execution, with their hands tied behind their backs. Other bodies were clearly those of patients, as they were wearing bandages and still had IV lines attached. As the graves were uncovered by the clearing teams, families searching for lost relatives reached Nasser Hospital to try to identify them among the bodies, often based on clothing or specific signs, considering that most of them were beyond recognition.

The Nasser medical complex has been under continuous attack by the IOF since the end of a temporary pause in the attacks on December 1. Doctors Without Borders (MSF), whose staff were among the health workers present at the hospital during this time, documented the timeline of the Israeli army’s actions. These ranged from forcing imprisoned Palestinians to deliver evacuation orders to those sheltering at the hospital, to the destruction of hospital wards and equipment, and to the physical and emotional violence inflicted upon the staff and patients of the hospital, culminating in the recent discovery of mass graves.

“I am sick to the bone. I want to throw up,” said physician and activist Mads Gilbert of the scenes in a TV interview shortly following the discovery of the mass graves. The fact that Israel continues its violence against Palestinians in Gaza unpunished is a sign of “massive moral collapse in Western governments,” Gilbert commented.

Representatives of the United Nations soon called for an independent probe into the discovery of the bodies, reaffirming that they were appalled by the level of violence and destruction witnessed at Nasser, Al-Shifa, and other hospitals in Gaza. Health centers and hospitals, the UN and Gilbert stated, are supposed to be sanctuaries and benefit from real protection during armed conflicts.

Read more: In a flagrant violation of international law, Israel intensifies siege of Nasser Medical Complex

Throughout this war, the actions of the IOF have completely violated the principle of protection of healthcare in wars. Hundreds of health workers, as Gilbert himself reminded, are still being held hostage and imprisoned in Israeli prisons and concentration camps in the Negev desert. Others were killed, as were members of their families, in bombardments of clearly marked health centers, and some were released after prolonged imprisonment and likely torture. Staff at Nasser have not been spared such treatment, with health workers being specifically targeted during previous raids of the complex.

While the hospital was nowhere near its original functioning capacities even before the IOF finally left the area, the most recent reports coming from the clearing teams leave very little hope for Nasser restoring its capacities anytime soon. If the ground invasion of the southernmost part of Gaza proceeds as announced by Israeli authorities, the erasure of the hospital from the healthcare map of Palestine will certainly be particularly damning evidence on the long list of genocidal acts perpetrated by Israel in the past six months.

People’s Health Dispatch is a fortnightly bulletin published by the People’s Health Movement and Peoples Dispatch. For more articles and to subscribe to People’s Health Dispatch, click here.