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Palestinians Uncover Dozens Killed Execution-Style in Schoolyard in Gaza

Palestinian civilians discovered bodies blindfolded and with their legs and hands tied back.

A view of destruction in the towns of al-Karameh, al-Sudaniyeh and Al-Tawam where their asphalt roads were destroyed by bulldozers and Israeli airstrikes after the Israeli army withdrew from parts of Gaza City and North Gaza for the first time since it started its ground offensive on October 27, 2023, in Gaza City, Gaza, on February 2, 2024.

Dozens of bodies of Palestinians have been uncovered in a mass grave in a schoolyard in northern Gaza, with witnesses saying they appeared to have been killed “execution style” by Israeli forces. A human rights lawyer has said the killings are “clearly a war crime.”

Palestinians uncovered more than 30 bodies buried in northern Gaza in black bags with their hands and feet tied and blindfolded, according to witnesses.

“As we were cleaning, we came across a pile of rubble inside the schoolyard. We were shocked to find out that dozens of dead bodies were buried under this pile,” one witness told Al Jazeera on Wednesday. “The moment we opened the black plastic bags, we found the bodies, already decomposed. They were blindfolded, legs and hands tied. The plastic cuffs were used on their hands and legs and cloth straps around their eyes and heads.”

Video and photos appearing to show the bags containing the bodies show that they are zip-tied shut with tags with barcodes and writing in Hebrew.

The witnesses’ accounts line up with previous reports of Israeli soldiers killing Palestinians execution style in other locations, including reporting that soldiers had lined up Palestinians, including newborn babies, and shot them point blank at another school in northern Gaza in December. Around the same time, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reported that Israeli soldiers had been killing dozens of elderly Palestinians in field executions after ordering them to leave their homes or after releasing them from being detained without charges.

Other videos and photos in December have shown Israeli soldiers stripping Palestinian men and making them kneel on the street in Gaza with their hands tied behind their backs. Israeli officials confirmed that soldiers were detaining them to check if they were members of Hamas forces.

The execution-style killings are further proof that Israel’s assault on Gaza is tantamount to a genocide, Palestinian Canadian human rights lawyer Diana Buttu told Al Jazeera on Thursday.

“This is precisely why Israel was taken to the International Court of Justice with the accusation that it is committing genocide,” Buttu said.

“Israel has been committing war crimes against Palestinians since 1948 and nobody has ever held Israel to account,” she continued. “This is clearly a war crime.”

Buttu added that the zip ties on the body bags and the state of the bodies show that Israeli soldiers feel “emboldened,” with Israeli soldiers and officials rarely facing consequences for war crimes in the past, she said.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is calling for an international investigation into the allegations that Israeli forces are killing people execution-style.

“The Ministry believes that the discovery of this mass grave in this brutal form reflects the scale of the tragedy to which Palestinian civilians are exposed, the mass massacres and executions of even detainees, in flagrant and gross violation of all relevant international norms and laws,” the ministry said.

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