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Palestinians finally bury their dead in Gaza sands
Published Wednesday 06/08/2014 (updated) 09/08/2014 10:33
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A Palestinian man mourns at the morgue of a hospital in Rafah over
the bodies of some of the nine members of the same al-Ghoul family
who were killed along with other Palestinians after their house was hit
by an Israeli air strike on Aug. 3, 2014 (AFP Said Khatib)
RAFAH (AFP) -- For days bodies filled the morgues. Only since guns fell silent have volunteers come to dig graves in the sand in Rafah, Gaza's "town of martyrs," devastated by Israeli bombardment.

For three days the strategic southern town went through hell.

"The tanks came," says Mohammed Abu Luli, 50, who fled his home after the bombardment started.

"There were strikes from air, land and sea. The bombs rained down everywhere. I have never seen anything like it in all my life," he added.

In neighborhoods, houses lie flattened or ripped open by shelling. Asphalt on the road has been ripped up by the weight of Israeli tanks.

At the end of one field of rubble lies a strange, gaping hole: a tunnel used by Hamas fighters.

Rafah experienced some of the worst fighting during the month-long war between Israel and Hamas.

The bombardment intensified when an August 1 truce between both sides unraveled in just 90 minutes after Hamas attacked an Israeli unit, killing three soldiers, after Israeli forces deployed heavily in the area and killed 16 overnight.

Hamas says the attack occurred before the ceasefire began and that Israel continued into the ceasefire, a claim Israel disputes.

The army shot back with a bloody and prolonged assault on Rafah, under which ran a network of tunnels that Hamas used to smuggle basic supplies and sometimes weapons from Egypt due to an eight-year long blockade.

Israel initially said Lieutenant Hadar Goldin had probably been snatched by Hamas fighters.

The last Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas, Gilad Shalit, was held hostage five years before being freed in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

On Sunday, Israel eventually confirmed Goldin's death after DNA tests on body parts found in a tunnel.

Israel sustained some of its worst losses from Hamas fighters who burst out of their carefully built tunnels to ambushed stunned soldiers.

Morgues overflowed

This was how Hamas attacked Goldin and his unit.

"Our fighters came out behind the tanks and sprayed them with bullets and rockets," one fighter told AFP in Rafah on Tuesday before running off.

On Wednesday at dawn, a digger churned up and dumped sand on top of the tunnel under close gaze of militants clearly hostile to the presence of cameras, demanding that footage be wiped.

Mohammed's brother Mahmud Abu Luli was sheltering in a UN school in the center of Rafah.

"But there was an Israeli bombardment just outside the school, in the street. I saw everything, there was a pool of blood on the ground," he said behind his bushy white beard.

"Rafah is a town of martyrs!" he adds as men standing by nod in a agreement and children collect pieces of shell and mortar from the ground.

Combat was so intense that local residents were trapped inside, unable to bury their dead on the same day or even the next, as Muslim tradition requires.

It was not until after Israel and Hamas agreed to a 72-hour truce, begun on Tuesday, that residents in Rafah could start to come out and bury the dead, kept until then in chock-a-block morgues.

Even morgues overflowed.

"We had to use all the places in the hospital and neighbors' houses and rental refrigerators for vegetables and put the bodies in them. The situation was a tragedy," said Mohammed al-Masri, director of the small Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah.

In a cemetery just 100 meters (yards) from the Egyptian border, men dig trenches in the sand and put in cement blocks to form small tomb-like rectangles. Each body is placed in a rectangle, then the whole space covered up into a mass grave.

Thirty little anonymous mounds quickly form in the sand. Outside the cemetery a group of relatives mourn the death of Sumaya Abid Duhair, a nurse killed in an air strike on her house.

"We have to keep working because other bodies will be buried here," says Nidal Shalagel, a volunteer in his 30s. "That's enough. We need peace. No one likes death."
1 ) Trudie / US
07/08/2014 00:28
May Allah grant you with Jannah beloved Palestinian people for you are blessed with a promise of the Messiah who will bring justice for the world but especially for you people who have endured so much at the hands of these European occupying invaders

2 ) AirMike / USA
07/08/2014 18:23
I am somewhat sympathetic to the Palestinians who have been conned by their political leaders. But, they are condemned to a life of fear and death as long as they pray to their false gods of hate and vengeance. Instead of building the next Tel Aviv in Gaza end enjoying a joyful life of health and prosperity - they persist in their one dimensional obsession of hate for the Jews and Zionists. Their culture of hate and death has never prevailed in all of human history -and it never will.

3 ) Gaetano Bucci / Italy
07/08/2014 21:48
I am with beloved Palestinian people. I pray for you. I hope all your sofference will end, one day. I believe Israel must pay for his war crimes toward an international court.

4 ) maria eugenia / venezuela
07/08/2014 22:19
No puedo creer tanta injusticia!!! Que barbarie...

5 ) Feroz / Mauritius
08/08/2014 15:11
Just because the aggressor is Israel, the International Community has done nothing concrete to liberate Palestine from occupation and to protect the population from genocide, daily apartheid, blockade, etc. Muslims have nothing againts Jews but Zionists yes of course. What the world came to know in 2014, Muslims knew about the Zionist since the beginning. What rights did UK has to create Israel? Biblical right? Then where is the rights of the Red Indians of America who discovered the continent?

6 ) Carrie / USA
09/08/2014 03:20
If the Palestinians hate Israel and Jews, then it is well deserved. The "creation" of Israel was the destruction of their homeland, their lives, their everything. God didn't GIVE you anything Israel. You murdered for it. You stole it at gunpoint. You have tortured the Palestinians ever since, denying them the very rights you demand for yourselves. There is but one God and God is a just God and loving God. This will be rectified. Justice will prevail.

7 ) Robert Chapman / US
10/08/2014 21:50
Im thinking of you all in Palestine !!,my heart aches, I love you.

8 ) Outlier / USA
11/08/2014 18:29
Sadly, most died in vain, the consequence of Hamas ambition.

9 ) Robert Chapman / US
14/09/2014 03:28
#8 outlier your ignorance and arrogance will catch up to you, I'd love to be there and see you compromised.
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