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As Gaza death toll passes 30,000, grave-digger longs to build houses again

February 29, 2024 at 2:17 pm

Local residents conduct a search and rescue operation among the rubbles of destroyed buildings after Israeli attacks at al-Nuseirat refugee camp in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on February 28, 2024. [Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency]

The mounting death toll from Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip is a concrete, daily reality for Ibrahim Ahmed: instead of building houses, as he did before the war, he digs graves, Reuters reports.

Displaced from his home, like most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million, Ahmed spends his days at Tal Al-Sultan cemetery in the Rafah area, preparing rows of graves in the sandy terrain and marking them with cement blocks for lack of gravestones.

“As a human being who has feelings, it feels heavy to go from building villas and apartments, which I love, to building graves,” said Ahmed.

“My job was difficult, yes, but I’d go home with a sense of achievement. I made new things, every day a different building, a different decor. I went home in a good mood.”

Now, every day brings dead bodies and processions of bereaved relatives.

“I see different people but with the same faces, with the same suffering. It’s depressing,” said Ahmed.

READ: Israel War Cabinet to withdraw powers related to Al-Aqsa Mosque from Ben Gvir

“We have two mass graves here, nearly 80 martyrs over here, and 100 more martyrs over there.”

The war began on 7 October when members of the group, Hamas, attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault that has laid waste to much of the Palestinian Territory. Gaza’s Health Ministry said, on Thursday, the death toll had passed 30,000.

“The number keeps increasing. I wish I could stop doing this work,” said Ahmed.

With the certainty that more bodies will arrive, Ahmed and other volunteers have been preparing empty graves in long rows in advance.

“I wish this war would end so that we don’t have to build graves anymore but, instead, build this country, rebuild it,” he said.

READ: UNRWA: 75% of Gazans drink contaminated water, 90% of children sick