Gaza City – Dozens of shrouded bodies lie on the ground outside al-Shifa Hospital as a crowd gathers, ready to take them to their final resting place.
“We must honour the dead by burying them,” a man’s voice rings out on Sunday.
That day was different from the similar scene that repeats every day at this hospital.
Some of the shrouds are bigger than others, not a sign of a more corpulent deceased, but because they hold remains of more than one person. Many of the remains are partial.
There are an estimated 62 Palestinians on the ground. They were killed in Israeli attacks but were either too disfigured to identify or were not claimed by anyone because their entire families were killed.
“We’re burying in a mass grave dozens of bodies of unknown people who were killed in Israeli massacres,” Salama Maarouf, head of the government media office in Gaza, said.
“We do not know their identity on this Earth, but they are known in the heavens,” he continued.
More than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in Israeli attacks since October 7, including some 4,000 children and nearly 2,000 women.
The morgue at al-Shifa has been overflowing since the first day of the attacks, and a tent set up to hold even more bodies is also, Maarouf said. Volunteers come together to bury the unidentified people to grant them dignity in death and to clear space because they expect more bodies to come in.
The unidentified bodies had arrived at the hospital after the Gaza Strip was plunged into a total communications blackout on Friday, the night of the heaviest Israeli bombardment over the territory.
“Everyone who arrived at the hospital that night had been dismembered,” Maarouf said. “We buried six children together because their bodies were all cut into pieces. We gathered their remains and put them in one shroud.”
Maarouf said cutting off internet and communications allows Israel to “hide its atrocities”, and described its air raids and accompanying actions against Palestinians as a “brutal holocaust”.
A quick prayer was said over the bodies before they were loaded on the open beds of pick-up trucks to be buried in the emergency cemetery.
“History will judge those who have allowed this to happen to us and did nothing to help or stop this aggression,” Maarouf said.