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Israel returns 80 bodies to Gaza after confirming they're not hostages

1 min

Israel has returned the bodies of 80 Palestinians killed in the Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.

It is rare for such a large number of bodies to be returned © Mena Today 

Israel has returned the bodies of 80 Palestinians killed in the Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.

Israel said it was returning the bodies after confirming that they were not Israeli hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7.

The ministry said the bodies were buried and the authorities recorded details to help with later identification. Gaza authorities were trying to figure out when and where the men were killed and who they were.

Israel government says the aim of its offensive in Gaza is to destroy Hamas despite global calls for a ceasefire in the 11-week-old war. Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and captured 240 hostages on Oct. 7 in the deadliest day in Israeli history.

An Israeli military spokesperson said that during the war, bodies have been transported to Israel "for an identification procedure as part of our effort to locate the hostages and the missing persons".

"The difficulties in identifying those murdered make it necessary to transfer those bodies to Israel for forensic identification," and that it was in line with "routine analysis that complies with internationally accepted forensic standards" in order to rule out their identification as Israeli hostages, the spokesperson said.

The health ministry said the bodies were handed over by Israel through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. According to the Islamic Waqf, or religious affairs ministry, the bodies had been collected from the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

It is rare for such a large number of bodies to be returned.

They were buried on Tuesday in a long ditch at a Rafah cemetery in the south of the enclave.

"Pictures are being taken to identify them later," a representative of the Gaza Islamic Waqf said.

Palestinian health authorities say about 21,000 people have been killed in Israeli strikes, with thousands more feared buried under rubble. Nearly all the enclave's 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes, many several times.

Israel says it is doing what it can to protect civilians, and blames Hamas for putting them in harm's way by operating among them, which Hamas denies.

Writing by Michael Georgy;Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Macfie

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