Palestinians bury victims where they can

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The Independent Online

Under a dripping fog penetrated by occasional gunfire, Palestinians buried 15 of their dead yesterday in a hospital car park – a gesture driven by grim necessity but also a protest against the five-day Israeli military occupation of Ramallah.

Under a dripping fog penetrated by occasional gunfire, Palestinians buried 15 of their dead yesterday in a hospital car park – a gesture driven by grim necessity but also a protest against the five-day Israeli military occupation of Ramallah.

At the city's hospital, bodies had been piling up since Friday, slowly decomposing because the electricity was cut. Because of running gun battles in the streets, and a tight military curfew, Palestinians were unable to leave their homes, claim the bodies of loved ones and bury them properly.

So despairing hospital administrators finally decided it would be best to bury them for now in a makeshift grave. The scene could hardly have been more dismal. The stench of death wafted across the lot as the corpses of 13 men and two women in blood-streaked white body bags were carried to their common graves.

Palestinians say the dead were non-combatants. Israel claimed most were combatants.

Their families – those few members able to reach the hospital during a brief lifting of the curfew – wailed as the bodies were lowered. The hospital's director murmured hasty prayers and angry shouts of " Allahu Akbar!" (God is Great!) arose.

The crowd of more than 100 people was made up of hospital workers and ordinary Palestinians; women in the traditional embroidered dress, teenagers in jeans, old men in robes. Some members of European peace groups, who have been protesting against the Israeli incursion, milled about.

Zekia Shaleh, a dietician, braved the threat of gunfire to see the dead being buried. "We hospital workers wanted to be here, to represent the families who could not come," she said, eyes welling. "It is a shame, more than a shame, what we have had to do here today."

When all the bodies were in the pits, a bulldozer quickly shovelled earth on top. Someone stuck three small plastic Palestinian flags in the mound. Then the crowd dispersed as gunfire was heard. Sirens screamed as an ambulance arrived with five more victims.

The hospital's director, Dr Husni Atari, said he hoped he would not have to preside over another burial like this one. "We are deprived of our dignity by these circumstances," he said. "Who can live like this? Who can die like this?" (AP)

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