Largest mass grave of 3,500 people found outside Raqqa city in Syria

There are some 2,500-3,000 bodies estimated there, plus between 900 and 1,100 bodies in the individual graves. (AFP)
Updated 21 February 2019
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Largest mass grave of 3,500 people found outside Raqqa city in Syria

  • First responders learned of the burial site in the Al-Fukheikha suburb last month

 RAQQA: Two feet deep, below a plot of farmland outside the Syrian city of Raqqa, lies a large and deadly legacy of Daesh: A mass grave holding an estimated 3,500 people.

First responders learned of the burial site in the Al-Fukheikha suburb last month, more than a year after US-backed forces captured Raqqa from Daesh and as they closed in on the group’s final redoubt of Baghouz further south.

The belated discovery is the biggest example yet of how the violence Daesh sowed will be harvested for years to come, diggers and activists said.

Several dozen mounds of dirt line one side of the Al-Fukheikha plot, marking the more than 120 bodies already dug up by the Rapid Response Division of Raqqa’s civil defense service.

“These are individual graves, but behind us, by the trees, are the mass graves of those executed by Daesh,” said Asaad Mohammad, the 56-year-old forensic assistant at the site.

“There are some 2,500-3,000 bodies estimated there, plus between 900 and 1,100 bodies in the individual graves, so at least 3,500 total,” he said.

Eight other mass graves have already been identified around the northern Syrian city, including one nicknamed “Panorama,” from which more than 900 bodies had been exhumed.

Earlier this week, diggers in flimsy medical masks excavated a small bundle wrapped in greying, damp cloth. 

 


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 12 min 27 sec ago
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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.