"This is precisely why Israel was taken to the International Court of Justice with the accusation that it is committing genocide," said one legal expert.
Screenshot of a video documenting the uncovering of the bodies -- via X
By Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams
Palestinian officials on Wednesday demanded an international inquiry after the decomposing remains of dozens of blindfolded and handcuffed bodies were found at a northern Gaza school following the withdrawal of Israeli forces.
Gaza officials claim the 30 victims, who were found on the grounds of the Hamad School in Beit Lahia, were civilians who were killed "execution-style" by Israeli troops before they left the area.
"As we were cleaning, we came across a pile of rubble inside the schoolyard. We were shocked to find out that the dozens of dead bodies were buried under this pile," one witness said. "The moment we opened the black plastic bags, we found the bodies, already decomposed. They were blindfolded, legs and hands tied."
The advocacy group Palestinian Prisoners Club called the grisly discovery "a clear indication that the occupation carried out a field execution."
The discovery prompted the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to demand an international investigation "to find out the truth and dimensions of the genocide to which our people are exposed."
There have been numerous reports of Israeli troops summarily executing Palestinians, both militants and civilians alike. Last month, witnesses described Israeli soldiers murdering men, women, and children at the Shadia Abu Ghazala School near the Jabalia refugee camp. Later in December came reports from United Nations human rights officials of Israeli troops fatally shooting at least 11 unarmed Palestinian men in front of their relatives.
That same week, the international NGO Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said dozens of elderly Palestinian men and women have been executed by Israeli forces during the war. The group subsequently submitted to the International Criminal Court and U.N. special rapporteurs evidence documenting "dozens of cases of field executions carried out by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip."
Reacting to the discovery of the 30 bodies in Beit Lahia, Palestinian Canadian human rights lawyer Diana Buttu told Al Jazeera that the incident illustrates "precisely why Israel was taken to the International Court of Justice with the accusation that it is committing genocide."
The ICJ found near unanimously in a January 26 interim ruling that Israel is "plausibly" committing genocide in Gaza and must "take all measures within its power" to uphold its obligations under the Genocide Convention.
A U.S. federal judge ruled Wednesday in a separate case seeking to hold the Biden administration accountable for its support of Israel that while "the ongoing military siege in Gaza is intended to eradicate a whole people" and therefore "may plausibly constitute a genocide," the court lacked jurisdiction in the matter.
On Tuesday, Wafa—the official state news agency of the Palestinian National Authority—reported that the bodies of more than 100 Palestinian civilians stolen by Israeli troops from al-Shifa Hospital and a cemetery outside the facility were buried in a mass grave in Rafah after being returned via the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
According to Wafa, medical sources said some of the bodies were missing organs. Last November, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor expressed "concerns" about the possible theft of Palestinian organs by Israeli forces.
Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.
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