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“Cemetery of Numbers:” Israel’s Practice of Withholding the Bodies of Deceased Palestinians 

Denying Palestinians the right to mourn their loved ones is another manifestation of Israel’s dehumanization, brutality, and torment of millions under its occupation.

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Photo: Palestine Chronicle

Israel distinguishes itself among all nations by subjecting not only the living but also the deceased to unparalleled atrocities, exceeding the brutality even of the most racist and brutal colonial regimes. 

Israel continues to withhold the bodies of hundreds of Palestinian and Arab martyrs who sacrificed their lives at various stages of the Palestinian resistance. Additionally, the remains of prisoners who were tortured to death and buried in secret graves, known as the “Cemetery of Numbers,” are held in closed military zones, inaccessible to the public.

Those four recently discovered graves are located within the 1948 territory. The Banat Yacoub Bridge Cemetery is situated in a military zone where the Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian borders meet. It contains the remains of hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese victims killed in the 1982 war, with around 500 graves. The Bir al Maksur (Jisr Damia) grave is in a closed military zone between Jericho and the Jordan Valley, marked by an iron gate bearing a sign in Hebrew: “Cemetery for the Enemy’s Victims,” containing approximately 100 graves. The other two are Revidim Cemetery in the Jordan Valley and Shahita Cemetery in Wadi Hammam village.

This “Cemetery of Numbers” is a set of secret burial sites surrounded by stones and lacking proper markers. Each grave has a metal plate with a specific number, hence the name “Cemetery of Numbers.” These graves use numbers instead of names for martyrs, with each number corresponding to an individual file held by the responsible security authorities. Human rights organizations confirm that these graves date back to the establishment of Israel and the cemeteries have been used extensively since the armed Palestinian resistance began in June 1967.

It is challenging for human rights organizations to determine the true number and locations of the “Cemetery of Numbers” and the identities of those buried within them. Israeli press reports suggest that these graves often lack the minimum specifications suitable for human burials, and the treatment of the martyrs’ bodies is degrading. In many cases, martyrs are buried without proper insulation, and multiple bodies may be interred in the same pit, sometimes containing both men and women.

The establishment of the “Cemetery of Numbers” is believed to be a cover-up for crimes committed against abducted martyrs, including torture until death. Many of the martyrs held captive were reportedly used as human spare parts, their organs stolen for medical experiments within Israeli hospitals, adding another motive for holding their bodies.

The families of the “martyred prisoners,” as the Palestinians like to call them, believe that their sons and daughters are susceptible to being attacked or consumed by stray dogs, beasts, or birds in these unknown graves. The Israeli army is believed to bury them in shallow holes concealed with an emblem of the Israeli Ministry of Health or in black plastic bags without proper burial conditions.

These crimes committed by the Zionist enemy against Palestinian martyrs reflect its fear of exposing its criminal practices against a people struggling for freedom and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Denying Palestinians the right to mourn their loved ones is another manifestation of Israel’s dehumanization, brutality, and torment of millions under its occupation. The return of the bodies and remains of Palestinians to their homeland, allowing them to reunite with their families and receive proper burials, remains a crucial issue that deserves attention at the national, human, and international levels. It is a case that requires a unified national and international stance,  and presentation before the International Criminal Court, being no less significant than the issues of prisoners, and the right of return.

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