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UN calls for investigation of mass graves at Gaza hospitals

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations called for “a clear, transparent and credible investigation” of mass graves uncovered at two major hospitals in war-torn Gaza that were raided by Israeli troops.

Credible investigators must have access to the sites, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, and more journalists need to be able to work safely in Gaza to report on the facts.

Earlier Tuesday, U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk said he was “horrified” by the destruction of the Shifa medical center in Gaza City and Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, as well as the reported discovery of mass graves in and around the facilities after the Israelis left.

He called for independent and transparent investigations into the deaths.

U.S. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel on Tuesday called the reports of mass graves at the hospitals “incredibly troubling” and said U.S. officials have asked the Israeli government for information.

The Israeli military said its forces exhumed bodies that Palestinians had buried earlier as part of its search for the remains of hostages captured by Hamas terrorists during its Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. The military said bodies were examined in a respectful manner and those not belonging to Israeli hostages were returned to their place.

The Israeli military says it killed or detained hundreds of terrorists who had taken shelter inside the two hospital complexes.

The issue of who could or should conduct an investigation remains in question.

For the United Nations to conduct an investigation, one of its major bodies would have to authorize it, Dujarric said.

“I think it’s not for anyone to prejudge the results or who would do it,” he said. “I think it needs to be an investigation where there is access and there is credibility.”

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, said after visiting Israel and the West Bank in December that a probe by the court into possible crimes by Hamas militants and Israeli forces “is a priority for my office.”

The discovery of the graves “is another reason why we need a cease-fire, why we need to see an end to this conflict, why we need to see greater access for humanitarians, for humanitarian goods, greater protection for hospitals” and for the release of Israeli hostages, Dujarric said.

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