Mass graves containing the bodies of hundreds of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the 1948 Nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic) have been discovered in Jaffa (see photos here). Workers for the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage, an NGO based in the city of Umm al-Fahm, found the six graves during a restoration project repairing collapsed grave sites at the Al-Kazakhana cemetery. The graves contain the bodies of men, women, and children killed during fighting as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were either expelled by Zionist forces or fled from Palestine in the 1948 war.
Annie Robbins of Mondoweiss writes that the findings "support documented oral histories collected from Palestinians who lived through the Nakba," with historians having collected "testimonies recounting scenes of massacres in Jaffa and the surrounding area from eyewitness who saw piles of bodies scattered throughout neighborhoods of Jaffa."
Image credit: Al-Aqsa Foundation
The shocking discovery was made when the ground subsided during renovations, revealing the six chambers full of skeletons. In the report by the Al-Aqsa Foundation, Sheikh Mohammed Najem, head of the Islamic Movement in Jaffa, is quoted saying, "During repair and maintenance work on the cemetery, we discovered nozzles to dig into the ground where we found the mass graves ... including hundreds of skeletons and human remains of rebels, martyrs, and civilians who perished during the Nakba." The foundation says that the remains date back to the 1948 war. Some of the graves also date back to the 1936 Palestinian uprising against British Mandate rule. The Daily Mail, quoting local researcher and historian Mahmoud Obeir, reports that the two graves dug up so far contained around 200 bodies, with an estimated total of around 600 bodies in all six graves.
Once a Palestinian town, Jaffa fell to Zionist forces during the 1948 war, causing a mass exodus of its Palestinian population. Agence France Presse (AFP) quotes local fisherman Atar Zeinab, 80, who says that as a teenager during the 1948 war he helped collect bodies from around the town to bring to the cemetery:
"I carried to the cemetery 60 bodies during a period of three or four months. We used to find the people in the street and most of the time we didn't know who they were. We carried them early in the morning or in the night. We put women, children and men in the same place ... nobody prayed for these people."