Middle East

Fifteen more bodies recovered from Al-Shifa hospital area after Israeli military’s withdrawal

By Kareem Khadder and Zeena Saifi, CNN

Fifteen bodies were recovered on Monday from around Al-Shifa hospital following the withdrawal of the Israeli military from the area two weeks ago, Gaza residents and medical crews told CNN.

Health workers and residents in northern Gaza have been searching and digging for what they believe are mass graves and looking for their loved ones, after they said Israeli forces killed hundreds of Palestinians and left their bodies to decompose during their two-week siege of the complex.

“We were called today to extract the bodies that are buried inside Al-Shifa medical complex. We came here at 9 a.m. with an excavator and excavated 15 bodies,” Adel Al-Mash-Harawi, an ambulance driver from Gaza told CNN from the site of the excavation.

Hundreds of bodies have been recovered from areas around the hospital complex since the siege ended April 1, a Gaza Civil Defense spokesperson told CNN last week.

Video filmed by CNN Monday shows medical workers, some wearing UN-marked vests, walking around the site over mounds of sand, digging up bodies. White body bags can be seen laying on the side of the excavation site, some marked with text reading “unidentified body” and some with names of people on them.

“Today I bid farewell to my mother who was inside Al-Shifa hospital during the invasion and attack by the vicious Israeli occupation on this medical complex that has been turned into a big mass of rubble,” Mohammad Al-Khateeb a resident of Gaza told CNN.

Al-Khateeb’s mother, Khawala Al-Khateeb, was 75 years old when she was brought to the hospital three days before the Israeli military siege on the complex and surrounding neighborhood of Al-Rimal, and was killed three days after, he said.

“The Israeli military deprived patients, nurses, doctors and the displaced of water, medicine and food,” he added.

CNN has reached out to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment on these allegations but has not received a response.

Waleed Abu-Laila told CNN he had been searching for his mother since the Israeli siege on the hospital ended on April 1. On Monday, he said he found her body.

“I identified her from specific markings on her feet and hands, because she was injured on November 23 last year when her toe and finger were both amputated,” Abu Laila told CNN.

He said his mother was taken to Al-Shifa because she was dehydrated and had signs of malnutrition.

Disturbing video shows Abu-Laila opening a white body bag, revealing his mother’s decomposed body.

“The hospital was blocked from all sides and there were bodies scattered all over, squashed on the streets from the tank rails. When I got a call to come check the unidentified bodies, I opened a bag that was marked “unidentified” and immediately found my mother’s body decomposed,” he said.

The IDF has claimed that “hundreds of terrorists were killed or captured” during the two-week siege but has not provided any evidence.

Khader Al-Za’anoun of Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, contributed reporting.

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