Satellite images show Israeli forces desecrated at least 16 cemeteries in Gaza
A CNN investigation has found that Israeli forces have desecrated at least 16 cemeteries in their ground offensive in Gaza, leaving ruined graves, disturbed earth and, in some cases, dug up bodies.
In Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, where fighting intensified earlier this week, Israeli forces destroyed a cemetery and removed bodies, Israeli Defense Forces told CNN during the October 7 terrorist attacks. It was part of a search for the remains of hostages kidnapped by Hamas.
CNN examined satellite images and social media images showing the destruction of cemeteries and witnessed it firsthand while traveling with the IDF in a convoy. Overall, the evidence reveals a systematic exercise in which Israeli ground forces have advanced throughout Gaza.
Deliberate destruction of religious sites, such as cemeteries, is a violation of international law except in very limited circumstances involving becoming military targets, and legal experts told CNN that Israel’s actions could constitute war crimes.
An IDF spokesperson could not explain the destruction of the 16 cemeteries for which CNN provided coordinates, but said the army sometimes has “no choice” but to attack cemeteries, claiming that Hamas uses for military purposes.
The IDF said that rescuing hostages and finding and returning their bodies is one of its key missions in Gaza, which is why bodies have been removed from some graves.
“The hostage identification process, conducted in a secure and alternative location, ensures optimal professional conditions and respect for the deceased,” an IDF spokesperson told CNN. He said the bodies of those not considered hostages are “returned with dignity and respect.” ,
But in other cases, the Israeli military appears to have used cemeteries as military posts. CNN’s analysis of satellite images and video showed that Israeli bulldozers turned many cemeteries into locations, largely leveling the land and erecting berms to strengthen their positions.
In the Shajaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, where the cemetery used to be, Israeli military vehicles could be seen with bushes surrounding them. Local media reported that the central part of the Shajaiya cemetery had been cleared before the war. But satellite images showed that other parts had recently been demolished, and the IDF presence was visible as early as 10 December.
Read the full note here.