Six mass graves features the remains of dozens of Palestinians killed during the Israeli-Arab war of 1948, when the Jewish state was founded have been uncovered in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv.
An official at the Muslim cemetery there told AFP that the grisly find happened on Wednesday when ground subsided as builders carried out renovation work.
In 1948 Jaffa was a Palestinian town but there was an exodus of most of its Arab population when it fell to the fledgling Israeli army and right-wing Jewish militias.
Researcher and historian Mahmoud Obeid, a Jaffa resident, told As-Safri newspaper: ‘We discovered six mass graves, two of which we dug up. Our estimate is that they contain around 200 bodies, with an unknown additional number in the other graves.
‘The remains belong to people of different ages, including women, children and the elderly, some of which bear signs of violence.’
A local fisherman Atar Zeinab, 80, said that as a teenager during the final months of fighting in 1948 he helped to collect the Arab dead in the area south of Jaffa.
They were then brought for a quick burial in the cemetery, the area’s main graveyard.
‘I carried to the cemetery 60 bodies during a period of three or four months,’ he told AFP. ‘We used to find the people in the street and most of the time we didn’t know who they were.’
He said that the danger of being hit by flying bullets or grenade fragments was such that bodies were dumped one on top of the other in existing family crypts in the cemetery, contrary to Muslim custom.
‘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.
In 1950 Jaffa was incorporated into Tel Aviv, and was renamed Tel Aviv-Jaffa. It now a mixed Arab and Jewish population.
Around 760,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the Israeli-Arab war of 1948.