White burial shrouds are everywhere in Gaza as war deepens

White burial shrouds are everywhere in Gaza as war deepens
1 / 3
The shrouded bodies of people killed in Rafah during Israeli bombardment are placed on a truck for burial outside Al-Najar hospital on December 29, 2023. (AFP)
White burial shrouds are everywhere in Gaza as war deepens
2 / 3
Mohammed Abu Mussa, a volunteer at Keratan society which prepares dead bodies for burial, writes the name and date on a white shroud covering the body of a Palestinian killed in an Israeli strike at a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Dec. 28, 2023. (REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
White burial shrouds are everywhere in Gaza as war deepens
3 / 3
Mohammed Abu Mussa, a volunteer at Keratan society which prepares dead bodies for burial, prepares a white shroud at a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Dec. 28, 2023. (REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Short Url
Updated 30 December 2023
Follow

White burial shrouds are everywhere in Gaza as war deepens

White burial shrouds are everywhere in Gaza as war deepens
  • The coverings bear messages of mourning, love
  • Arab states, charities donate the burial garments

GAZA/RAFAH/CAIRO: “My life, my eyes, my soul,” a husband writes on the white shroud wrapped around his wife after the war devastating Gaza took her life.
A bereaved son writes “my mother and everything” on the burial cloth covering his mother, another of the more than 21,000 Palestinians killed in the Israel-Hamas confrontation.
Over the past 12 weeks the piece of white cloth has become a symbol of civilian deaths wrought by Israel as it retaliates for Hamas killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages in its Oct. 7 cross-border raid, the deadliest day in Israel’s history.
While the besieged Palestinian territory faces severe shortages of food, water and medicine, the white coverings used to wrap dead Palestinians have remained in abundant supply.
Not all the shrouds bear loving words. Such is the war’s chaos, some of the dead cannot immediately be identified.
In such cases, the shrouds bear the words “unknown male” or “unknown female,” and before burial pictures are taken and the date and place of the strike documented so individuals can be identified by relatives later.
If the conflict escalates, the supply of the white coverings donated by Arab governments and charities is expected to keep pace with demand. But there are difficulties brought on by the sheer number of the dead, and sometimes there are gaps in the local availability of the shrouds.
“The challenges we face are too much, there is shortage in the knives and the scissors that we need to prepare the shrouds and cut them,” said Mohammed Abu Mussa, a volunteer at Keratan society, which prepares dead bodies for burial.

KNIVES, SCISSORS, COTTON
“As you know, there is a blockade and there are no materials in the Gaza Strip, so we find difficulties getting knives, scissors, and cotton,” he said, adding that so many people are dying that sometimes donated shrouds are not enough and he has to wrap four of five people in one shroud.
Marwan Al-Hams, director of Abu Yousef Al Najjar hospital, said the prevalence of the shrouds signifies Gaza’s suffering.
“The big number of the martyrs made the white shroud a symbol for this war and it became parallel to the Palestine flag in its influence and the knowledge of the world about the significance of our cause,” he said.
The white covering goes back to a narration by the Prophet Muhammed, who encouraged his followers to wear white clothes and also wrap the dead in white.
Shrouds from Arab donors come packed with a bar of soap, perfume, cotton, and eucalyptus, for the preparation of bodies for burial, a doctor at a hospital in the southern town of Rafah told Reuters.
A Gaza Health Ministry official told Reuters shrouds are manufactured either from textile or nylon material. While the nylon ones are made in both white and black, white is the traditional color and is preferred.
In Gaza in normal times the minute someone dies, a relative goes to the market and buys a “Kafan,” or shroud.

SCENES OF CHAOS
But for Abdel-Hamid Abdel-Atti, a local journalist, the process in war-time Gaza began amid scenes of chaos and devastation, with bodies of six of his loved ones including his mother and brother being pulled from rubble.
The six were killed in an Israeli strike on Al-Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip on Dec. 7. The strike smashed a building on top of them as they slept.
Describing the procedure as the most painful experience of his life, he obtained shrouds from a hospital and wrapped them around his relatives’ bodies.
“The first one I did was my brother, the rest came wrapped in blankets and I asked they don’t be taken off, I put the shrouds over the blankets, and tied them carefully, before paying them farewell,” Abdel-Atti told Reuters.
“As I wrapped them in shrouds I wondered what was their fault ... Why did Israel kill them as they slept in peace?“
The only consolation, he said, was his relatives are going to heaven. “White resembles peace, resembles calm. It is part of our tradition and belief and by white shrouds, it is as if we are asking God to remove and clear all their sins and accept them in heaven,” said Abdel-Atti.
Asked how much the risk of death preoccupied him, the journalist replied: “Each one of us is afraid. With nightfall, people feel as if they are in a closed cage and each awaits his or her turn to die.” 


Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province
Updated 3 sec ago
Follow

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province
DUBAI: Yemen’s Houthis downed a US MQ-9 drone over Al-Bayda province in southern Yemen, the Iran-aligned group’s military spokesperson Yahya Saree said in a televised statement on Tuesday.

Funeral procession for Iran’s President Raisi starts

Funeral procession for Iran’s President Raisi starts
Updated 37 min 17 sec ago
Follow

Funeral procession for Iran’s President Raisi starts

Funeral procession for Iran’s President Raisi starts
  • Mourners set off from a central square in the northwestern city of Tabriz

TEHRAN: Thousands of Iranians walked sombrely through the streets on Tuesday for the funeral procession of President Ebrahim Raisi and seven members of his entourage who were killed in a helicopter crash.
Waving Iranian flags and portraits of the late president, the mourners set off from a central square in the northwestern city of Tabriz, where Raisi was headed when his helicopter crashed on Sunday.


Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed

Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed
Updated 36 min 36 sec ago
Follow

Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed

Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed
  • Among the Palestinians killed was a surgical doctor, the head of the Jenin Governmental Hospital said

JENIN: Israeli forces raided Jenin in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday in an operation that the Palestinian health ministry said killed seven Palestinians, including a doctor, and left nine others wounded.
The army said it was an operation against militants and that a number of Palestinian gunmen were shot. There was no immediate word of any Israeli casualties.
The health ministry account of the casualties was quoted by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Among the Palestinians killed was a surgical doctor, the head of the Jenin Governmental Hospital said. He was killed in the vicinity of the hospital, the director said.
The West Bank is among territories Israel seized in a 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians want it to be the core of an independent Palestinian state. US-sponsored talks on a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict broke down in 2014.


Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1

Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1
Updated 21 May 2024
Follow

Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1

Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1
  • Dubai airport welcomed around 23 million passengers in January-March period, operator says 
  • India, Saudi Arabia and Britain were top three countries by passenger volumes in first quarter

DUBAI: Dubai’s main airport expects to handle a record passenger traffic this year after an 8.4% rise in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, operator Dubai Airports said on Tuesday.

Dubai International Airport (DXB), a major global travel hub, welcomed around 23 million passengers in the January-March period, the operator said in a statement, noting that the uptick was partly driven by increased destination offers by flagship carrier Emirates and its sister low-cost airline Flydubai.

“With a strong start to Q2 and an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year, we have revised our forecast for the year to 91 million guests, surpassing our previous annual traffic record of 89.1 million in 2018,” CEO Paul Griffiths said in the statement.

Dubai is the biggest tourism and trade hub in the Middle East, attracting a record 17.15 million international overnight visitors last year.

Its ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum last month approved a new passenger terminal in Al Maktoum International airport worth 128 billion dirhams ($34.85 billion).

The Al Maktoum International Airport will be the largest in the world with a capacity of up to 260 million passengers, and five times the size of DXB, he said, adding all operations at Dubai airport would be transferred to Al Maktoum in the coming years.

DXB is connected to 256 destinations across 102 countries. In the first quarter, India, Saudi Arabia and Britain were the top three countries by passenger numbers, Dubai Airports added. ($1 = 3.6729 UAE dirham) 


Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes

Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes
Updated 21 May 2024
Follow

Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes

Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes
  • Israel slams as a ‘historical disgrace’ the demand to arrest their leaders for war crimes
  • US President Joe Biden denounces the ICC bid as ‘outrageous’

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Israel and Hamas, engaged in heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip, both angrily rejected on Monday moves to arrest their leaders for war crimes made before an international court.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Karim Khan said he had applied for arrest warrants for top Israeli and Hamas leaders over the conflict.

Israel slammed as a “historical disgrace” the demand targeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, while the Palestinian militant group Hamas said it “strongly condemns” the move.

Israel’s top ally the United States joined the condemnation, while France said it supported the court’s independence and its “fight against impunity.”

Netanyahu said he rejected “with disgust The Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas.”

Khan said in a statement that he was seeking warrants against the Israeli leaders for crimes including “wilful killing,” “extermination and/or murder,” and “starvation.”

He said Israel had committed “crimes against humanity” during the war, started by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, as part “of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population.”

Khan also said the leaders of Hamas, including Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, “bear criminal responsibility” for actions committed during the October 7 attack.

These included “taking hostages,” “rape and other acts of sexual violence,” and “torture,” he said.

“International law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” Khan said. “No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader — no one — can act with impunity.”

The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they traveled there, a point noted by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

However, the court has no mechanism to enforce its warrants.

US President Joe Biden denounced the ICC bid as “outrageous” and said “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

Germany agreed, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying the warrants gave “a false impression of equivalence.”

Biden also rejected accusations in a separate tribunal, the UN International Court of Justice, where South Africa has alleged that Israel’s war in Gaza is genocidal.

“What’s happening is not genocide,” Biden told a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House on Monday.

South Africa welcomed the move at the ICC.

The war ground on unabated, with Israeli forces battling Hamas in Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah, as well as in other flashpoints in central and northern areas.

Israel defied international opposition almost two weeks ago when it sent troops into Rafah, which is crowded with civilians and which the military has described as the last Hamas stronghold.

Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting Hamas in Gaza until the Iran-backed Islamist group is defeated and all remaining hostages are released.

The United Nations said more than 812,000 Palestinians had fled Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

“The question that haunts us is: where will we go?” said Sarhan Abu Al-Saeed, 46, a desperate Palestinian resident. “Certain death is chasing us from all directions.”

Witnesses said that Israeli naval forces had also struck Rafah, and medics reported an air strike on a residential building in the city’s west.

The military said Israeli troops were “conducting targeted raids on terrorist infrastructure” in eastern Rafah, where they had found “dozens of tunnel shafts” and “eliminated over 130 terrorists.”

The war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Hamas also took about 250 hostages during the attack, of whom 124 remain in Gaza including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,562 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The Israeli military said on Monday the bodies of four hostages retrieved from Gaza last week had been found in tunnels under Jabalia in the north.

Israeli forces have been fighting in northern and central areas previously declared largely cleared of militants, with the military saying its troops had killed 200 militants in Jabalia.

Israel has imposed a siege on the long-blockaded Gaza Strip, depriving its 2.4 million people of normal access to clean water, food, medicines and fuel.

The suffering has been eased only by sporadic aid shipments by land, air and sea, but truck arrivals have slowed to a trickle amid the Rafah operation.

The European Union warned that 31 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are no longer functioning and that the rest are “on the verge of collapse, with more than 9,000 severely injured people at risk of dying.”

Air strikes continued across Gaza, including on Gaza City in the north, the military said.

Gaza’s civil defense said the bodies of eight dead, along with several wounded, were retrieved after an air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met Netanyahu on Sunday and told him Israel must link the military operation against Hamas with a “political strategy” for Gaza’s future.

Washington has pushed for a post-war plan for Gaza involving Palestinians and supported by regional powers, as well as for a broader diplomatic deal under which Israel and Saudi Arabia would normalize relations.