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HomeworldGazans bury their dead in orchards and football fields

Gazans bury their dead in orchards and football fields

GAZA STRIP: Before he fled his home in northern Gaza, where intense fighting now rages between Israel and Hamas, Mahmud al-Masri had a grim job to do: Bury his three brothers and their five children in a nearby citrus orchard.

With his home area turned into a war zone, the bereaved 60-year-old farmer had no choice but to dig makeshift graves and hastily bid farewell to his relatives killed in an Israeli strike.

“We had to bury them there in the orchard because the cemetery is in the border zone where tanks are coming in, and it’s very dangerous,” Masri said.

“I will transfer the bodies when the war is over.”

Masri, who is now holed up with his family in a hospital in southern Gaza, lived in a two-storey house in Beit Hanoun in the semi-rural northeast of the Gaza Strip, not far from the border fence with Israel.

Masri decided initially to ignore Israeli warnings to flee south when war broke out after the Oct 7 Hamas attacks that killed 1,400 people inside Israel, mostly civilians, and saw about 240 hostages taken, according to Israeli officials.

Two weeks of heavy bombardment changed his mind and he resolved to get his wife and children out when the fighting intensified and fears of a massive ground invasion grew day by day.

Now – more than four weeks into the brutal war – upwards of 10,500 people, again mainly civilians, have been killed in Israeli bombardments of Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Masri told his story to AFP as he and his immediate family sheltered in an overcrowded hospital in the south.

He recalled that he was forced to bury his brothers and nephews in the orchard because the incessant bombing and incursions by Israeli soldiers meant his family could not reach Beit Hanoun’s cemetery.

He put bricks on the ground to mark where his relatives lay.

But he added that he had since learned that Israeli military bulldozers had destroyed his house and said: “I don’t know if the graves are still there as nothing is being spared.”

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