A recent investigation by CNN, announced on Friday 19 January, has brought to light allegations of the Israeli military desecrating graves in more than a dozen cemeteries in Gaza. Satellite imagery and social media footage reviewed by CNN offer evidence of the destruction.
According to CNN’s analysis, the evidence suggests a “systemic practice” by Israeli forces as they advance into areas of Gaza. Palestinian officials and human rights groups, including Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, have reported that graves in Gaza have been dug up and bodies removed.
The Israeli military claimed that this action was part of its search for hostages held by Hamas.
CNN’s investigation reveals that multiple cemeteries have been transformed into military outposts, with tombstones destroyed and heavy tread marks indicating the presence of armored vehicles or tanks driving over graves.
The intentional destruction of religious sites, such as cemeteries, violates international law unless specific circumstances are making the site a military objective.
Legal experts consulted by CNN suggested that Israel’s actions may amount to war crimes and raise serious humanitarian and legal concerns.
Janina Dill, co-director at Oxford University’s Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, told CNN: “The civilian nature of the cemetery remains intact to some extent. So someone who wants to attack a cemetery still has to take into account the kind of civilian use of the graves and the civilian importance of the cemetery, and has to minimize damage to that civilian function of the cemetery.”
Also, During the International Court of Justice hearing, South Africa highlighted the Israeli Defense Forces’ destruction of graveyards in Gaza as evidence supporting its case that Israel is engaged in acts of genocide.
Since 7 October, Israel has been launching air and ground strikes and has so far killed almost 25,000 people in the Palestinian territories.