Israel’s treatment of Gaza detainees raises alarm


Cold, almost naked and surrounded by Israeli soldiers with M16 assault rifles, Ayman Lubbad knelt among dozens of Palestinian men and boys who had just been killed. forced from their homes in northern Gaza.

It was early December and Photographs and videos taken in The hour showed him and other detainees on the street, dressed only in underwear and lined up in rows, surrounded by Israeli forces. In one video, a soldier shouted at them through a megaphone: “We are occupying all of Gaza. Is that what you wanted? Do you want Hamas to accompany you? “Don’t tell me you’re not Hamas.”

The detainees, some barefoot and with their hands on their heads, shouted objections. “I’m a day laborer,” one man shouted.

“Shut up,” the soldier shouted.

Palestinian detainees in Gaza have been stripped, beaten, interrogated and held incommunicado for the past three months, according to accounts from nearly a dozen detainees or their relatives interviewed by The New York Times. Organizations representing Palestinian prisoners and detainees gave similar accounts in to reportaccusing Israel of both indiscriminate detention of civilians and degrading treatment of detainees.

Israeli forces that invaded Gaza after the Hamas-led attack on October 7 have detained thousands of men, women and children.

Some were ordered out of their homes and were detained, while others were taken away as they fled their neighborhoods on foot with their families, trying to reach safer areas after being ordered to leave by Israeli authorities.

Photographs Photographs taken by Gaza journalists show recently freed detainees being treated in hospitals, the skin around their wrists worn away by deep cuts due to the heavy restrictions that Israeli forces kept on them, sometimes for weeks at a time.

The United Nations human rights office said last week that Israel’s treatment of detainees in Gaza could amount to torture. It was estimated that thousands of people had been detained and held in “horrible” conditions before being released, sometimes without clothes other than diapers.

In a statement in response to questions from the Times, the Israeli military said it detains people suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. and frees those who are acquitted. He said Israeli authorities were treating detainees in accordance with international law and defended forcing men and boys to strip, saying this was to “ensure that they do not conceal explosive vests or other weapons.”

“Clothes are returned to detainees when possible,” the army added.

Human rights advocates say Israel’s detention and degrading treatment of Palestinians in Gaza could violate international laws of war.

“Since the beginning of the Israeli bombing and ground invasion in Gaza, the Israeli military arrested hundreds of Palestinians in an unprecedented and barbaric manner and has released photographs and videos showing the inhumane treatment of those detained,” said a recent report by various Palestinian rights groups. , including the Palestinian Prisoners Commission and Addameer.

“Until now, Israel has concealed the fate of Gaza detainees, has not revealed their number, and has prevented lawyers and the Red Cross from visiting detainees,” the report added.

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Hisham Mhanna, said his organization was receiving daily reports from families in Gaza about detained relatives. The organization is working on about 4,000 cases of Palestinians from Gaza who had gone missing, and almost half are believed to have been detained by the Israeli army, he said.

The group has been seeking information about the conditions and whereabouts of detainees and pushing for visits. But only in a few cases has he received proof of life, Mhanna said.

Brian Finucane, an analyst at the research organization International Crisis Group and former legal adviser to the State Department, said international law sets “a very high bar” for detaining noncombatants and requires that they be treated humanely.

During the first month of the war, Israel warned those who did not flee areas under evacuation orders that “they could be considered associates of a terrorist organization.” Last month, an Israeli government spokesman, Eylon Levy, said Israeli forces were detaining “military-age men” in those areas.

Hamas was estimated to have between 20,000 and 40,000 fighters before the war, according to American and Western analysts, among a population of more than two million people in Gaza.

“The presumption that men of military age are combatants is worrying,” Finucane said.

Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories, said in October that designating civilians who did not evacuate as complicit in terrorism was not only a threat of collective punishment, but could constitute ethnic cleansing.

Photos and videos Taken by Israeli soldiers and Israeli journalists incorporated into the army, they have shown Palestinians with their hands tied behind their backs, sometimes blindfolded and in their underwear, down on my knees outdoors in winter.

In a video Taken in a stadium in Gaza City, dozens of men dressed only in underwear are lining up or marching across the field surrounded by Israeli soldiers. Some of the men were gray-haired and several were young boys.

Women and girls were also present, but they remained dressed.

One of those detained was Hadeel al-Dahdouh, 22, who appeared in another photograph published last month in the back of a van full of nearly naked men. In the image, his eyes were covered by a white bandage and his headscarf had been removed.

She and her husband, Rushdi al-Thatha, both from Gaza City in the north, were detained together on December 5, said al-Thatha, 31.

“They hit us on the head with their weapons,” said al-Thatha, one of several detainees who described being beaten by Israeli soldiers. “They beat my wife like they beat me,” he said. “They were yelling ‘Shut up!’ and curse her.”

Al Thatha said he was released after 25 days. Mrs al-Dahdouh is still missing.

The day Mr. Lubbad was detained, Dec. 7, he was at his parents’ house with his wife, he said. Weeks earlier he had given birth to his third child. They could hear gunshots and tanks in the streets and then an Israeli soldier shouted through a megaphone for all the men to come out and surrender.

As soon as he emerged, with his arms raised, he said, he was confronted by a soldier who ordered him to kneel and undress. In the December cold, he was kept kneeling in the back row of a line of Palestinian men and some children, all in their underwear, some barefoot.

Lubbad, himself a human rights worker with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said his detention lasted a week. In the first moments, he said, he told himself that he would do what the soldiers ordered him.

“We didn’t know what awaits us,” he said.

They tied his hands with a rope that immediately began to dig into his skin, he said. The detainees were forced onto trucks, blindfolded and hands tied, still in their underwear, while soldiers beat them, Lubbad said.

They were then taken for hours to Israel.

Only when they arrived at a prison in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva were they given clothing: gray tracksuits. Each person was given a number on a blue tag and the guards called them by their numbers, not their names.

Mr. Lubbad was held in a large barracks for three days. From five in the morning until midnight, dozens of detainees were forced to sit on their knees in a position he described as agonizing. Anyone who tried to change would be punished, Lubbad said.

He was not questioned until days later, he said, after being taken to another detention center in Jerusalem.

The interrogator asked him where he was on Oct. 7 and whether he had any information about members of Hamas, the armed group that controls Gaza, or Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed faction, he said. They asked him about tunnels and Hamas positions.

When he repeatedly responded that he knew nothing and spent much of his time at work or at home, the interrogator became angry and hit him under the eye, he said, and then put the blindfold back on him, tightening it painfully.

He was detained for several more days, but was not interrogated again.

Early on December 14, Lubbad said, he was among buses full of detainees being driven to Gaza’s southern border and told to start walking.

Several other detainees gave similar accounts.

Majdi al-Darini, 50, a father of four and a retired civil servant, said he was held for 40 days with his hands immobilized most of the time. The restraints cut his wrists, leaving wounds that eventually became infected. A video of Mr. al-Darini after his release shows scabs around his wrists.

“The whole time, your hands are tied, you are blindfolded and you are on your knees,” he said. “And you can’t move left or right.”

He said he was detained in mid-November while he and his family were walking south, after leaving their homes in northern Gaza in response to an evacuation order.

“They treated us like animals,” he said. “They hit us with sticks and cursed us.”

Mr. al-Thatha, the man who was detained with his wife, said that 25 days after his ordeal, a prison guard came to his barracks and asked him: “Can you run?”

He didn’t understand the question.

Hours later, around 2 a.m., he said, they called his name and put him on a bus to the Kerem Shalom border crossing from Israel toward Gaza. As they got off the bus, he said, a soldier warned them that a sniper was watching and ordered them to run for 10 minutes.

“We ran for 10 minutes without turning our heads,” he said.

Ameera Harouda, Hiba Yazbek and Nick Cumming-Bruce contributed reports.

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