The United Nations calls for investigations after the discovery of mass graves in 2 hospitals in Gaza

The United Nations human rights office on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into two mass graves found after Israeli forces withdrew from hospitals in Gaza, including one discovery days ago about which Israeli and Palestinian authorities have offered differing accounts.

The Palestinian Civil Defense said over the weekend that it had found a mass grave containing 283 bodies on the grounds of Nasser Hospital in the southern town of Khan Younis, two weeks after a similar mass grave was found at Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital City.

Mahmoud Basal, spokesman for the Palestinian Civil Defense, an emergency services organization, said some of the bodies found in Khan Younis were handcuffed, shot in the head or wearing detainee uniforms. He accused Israeli forces of killing and burying them. The Israeli military on Tuesday refused to respond to the claims, which could not be independently verified.

On Tuesday, hours after the UN's top human rights official called for an inquiry into the mass graves, the Israeli military said its forces had exhumed bodies buried by Palestinians “in the area” of the hospital Nasser and had examined them as part of an investigation attempting to locate the hostages. He did not comment on the news of the mass grave in Al-Shifa.

The Israeli army refused to say how many bodies the soldiers exhumed and buried, how they died or whether the remains of any hostages were found at the site. It also did not say how the bodies were examined to determine whether they were those of Israeli hostages.

“The examination was carried out respectfully, while maintaining the dignity of the deceased,” the statement read. “The bodies examined, which did not belong to Israeli hostages, were returned to their places.”

It was unclear where the people discovered in the mass grave were originally buried. But the chaos of war in Gaza has made it common for Palestinians to hastily bury the dead in mass graves or in yards and gardens, which may be unthinkable in times of peace.

In January, a Nasser official told reporters that hospital workers had buried about 150 people in the hospital courtyard because fighting nearby had made it too dangerous to go to the cemetery.

In addition to the grave at Nasser Hospital, a mass grave was reportedly discovered at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after an Israeli military operation there. The United Nations human rights office said Tuesday that the Gaza government reported that 30 more bodies had been found in two graves, 12 of which had been identified. The office said it could not confirm the accounts.

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