Graves of UK soldiers defaced with photos of abuse

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The Independent Online

Arab outrage at the dark events of Abu Ghraib prison has been visited on the British military cemetery in Gaza where the gravestones of servicemen killed in the First World War were desecrated and broken.

Arab outrage at the dark events of Abu Ghraib prison has been visited on the British military cemetery in Gaza where the gravestones of servicemen killed in the First World War were desecrated and broken.

Eight to ten youths, three of them armed with Kalashnikov rifles, attacked the graves before being chased away by members of the Palestinian Jaradi family which has tended the cemetery for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for 69 years.

The Palestinian vandals fixed pictures of American soldiers allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners, several daubed with swastikas and slogans such as "USA = UK", to 25 gravestones and kicked down another 33, splitting most in two.

The damaged gravestones were of soldiers killed in the failed attacks on the Turkish occupiers of Gaza in 1917 under Sir Archibald Murray before General Sir Edmund Allenby took over the Egypt expeditionary force and took Gaza on his way to capturing Jerusalem.

Issam Jaradi, the head gardener, said he was returning from his house when he saw the vandals. "I shouted at them and they ran away," he said.

His father Ibrahim Jaradi, who preceded his son as head gardener and was appointed MBE in 1994 for his 44 years'
service to the cemetery, said: "What they have done is against our religion. Only people who have no heart can do this." He added: "The pictures explain why they did this."

Another of his sons, Ala'a, said: "This is the most peaceful place in Gaza. Everyone loves it. This has never happened before." He said the cemetery contains graves of Jewish servicemen and they had never been damaged.

Although most of the broken gravestones were of unidentified soldiers and marked with the epitaph "Known unto God", three were of named soldiers: T W Downs of the 11th Battalion, the London Regiment, aged 31, and Private A Jackson and
W C Liggatt, 20, both of the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

Last night, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of reports linking this to Iraq but there is no justification for this act of vandalism, which we unreservedly condemn."

The British embassy said the incident was "deplorable" and said it was pressing the Palestinian Authority to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Jamal Shobaki, the authority's local government minister, said: "We condemn this action because it is against our culture and religion. Islam calls on us to respect the dead."

But, he added: "I spent time in an Israeli jail. We [the Palestinians] feel for the prisoners and are very angry."

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