Thu, January 15, 2009
Video > News/Media > Israeli assault on Gaza

Even in death Gazans find no peace

2009-01-15 08:57:43 GMT2009-01-15 16:57:43 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

Heavy casualties among Palestinians from the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza strip has left many Palestinians struggling for graves to bury their dead.

In nearly three weeks of war, more than 900 Palestinians have died, many of them civilians. With many graveyards now cut-off by Israeli forces ringing Gaza's main cities, many cemeteries that are still accessible are full, leaving many bereaved families to defy Muslim tradition and bury loved ones on top of existing bodies.

SCRIPT:

Even in death Gazans can find no peace.

Nearly a thousand Palestinians have perished since the start of Israel's crushing offensive in Gaza almost three weeks ago.

Poorly-equipped hospitals are choked with casualties; mortuaries are overflowing. Even the cemeteries are full.

Where there's space it's inaccessible: many graveyards are cut-off by Israeli forces ringing Gaza's main cities.

The bereaved have no choice but to bury their dead where they can even if that means opening an existing grave - in defiance of Muslim tradition.

At Gaza City's Shiekh Redwan cemetery, Mahmoud al-Zinati is digging a grave for his teenage cousin who was killed in an Israeli airstrike.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GAZA CITY RESIDENT, MAHMOUD AL-ZINATI 23, SAYING:

"When my cousin was killed, we came to this graveyard and other graveyards to find a place to bury him. But everywhere was full. Thank God, one of our cousins who was killed two years ago is buried here so we decided to dig up the grave so we can bury my cousin next to him."

The 23-year-old is haunted by guilt and shame at having to desecrate the grave of his 12-year-old cousin to provide a resting place for another relative.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GAZA CITY RESIDENT, MAHMOUD AL-ZINATI 23, SAYING:

"I can't describe my feelings. My cousin became a martyr, and I consider him a brother. How can I dig up the grave of my other cousin to bury someone else. I can't describe how I feel, and the sorrow I feel no one in the world can feel. He was my cousin, he was like a brother to me."

In another corner of the graveyard, Basil Kahir al-Deen is burying his friend in a stranger's grave.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GAZA CITY RESIDENT, BASIL KHAIR AL-DEEN, SAYING:

"There isn't even standing room here. Here there is a martyr with two others in the same grave. There are other graves that have three of four in the same grave. there are graves that have entire families in one grave because the cemetery is full."

He prays that Allah will accept them all.

Muslim tradition dictates against shared tombs, except in times of emergency.

Few here would argue against that.

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