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Freed Gaza detainees allege abuse, mistreatment by Israel, Palestinian officials say

Published 04/15/2024, 01:33 PM
Updated 04/15/2024, 03:21 PM

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) - Israel released 150 Palestinians detained during its military operations in Gaza back into the enclave on Monday and many have alleged they were abused during their time in captivity, Palestinian border officials said.

The detainees, including two members of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) who had been detained for 50 days, were released through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza on Monday, the border officials said.

Several were admitted to hospitals, complaining of abuse and ill-treatment inside Israeli jails, they said. The Israeli has military has denied the allegations.

Many of those freed said they had been questioned over whether they had connections to the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza.

"I went into jail with two legs and I returned with one leg," Sufian Abu Salah, said by phone from the hospital, adding that he had no medical history of chronic diseases.

"I had inflammations in my leg and they (the Israelis) refused to take me to hospital, a week later the inflammations spread and became gangrene. They took me to hospital where I had the surgery," said Abu Salah, adding that he had been beaten by his Israeli captors.

A resident of Abassan town east of Khan Younis, Abu Salah, 42, told Reuters was arrested by Israel forces at the end of February from a school where he and his family had taken refuge.

The father of four, who said he had no medical history of illnesses before his arrest, said he had no idea where he had been held, but that "it looked like an army camp not a prison."

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Association, there are at least 9,100 Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank detained in Israel. That figure does not include those arrested in Gaza since the beginning of the Oct. 7 war as Israel has not disclosed numbers related to its offensive.

The Israeli military said in a statement to Reuters it acts according to Israeli and international law and those it arrests get access to food, water, medication and proper clothing.

"The IDF is operating to restore security to the citizens of Israel, to bring home the hostages, and to achieve the objectives of the war while operating by international law," the military told Reuters, adding that specific complaints of inappropriate behavior are forwarded to relevant authorities for review.

NO INFORMATION ON DETAINEES

Palestinian and international human rights groups have said they were aware of claims of mistreatment in Israeli jails. They said Israel has been refusing to disclose information on Gaza detainees, including how many people it was holding and where.

In December, the U.N. Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said that it had received numerous reports of mass detentions, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of Palestinians in northern Gaza by the Israeli military.

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Reuters it has not been able to visit any Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails since October, when Israel suspended such visits, but that it was aware of media reports of a high rate of arrests by Israeli forces, as well as references to the ill-treatment of detainees.

"Detainees originating from occupied territories are considered protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949," it said. "The ICRC must be notified of all protected persons deprived of liberty and ensure that ICRC delegates have access to them wherever they are held, including in interrogation centres, prisons, hospitals or military camps."

The Gaza Civil Emergency Service said that the captives freed on Monday had been subjected to "various kinds of abuse and torture" and that many were admitted to hospitals upon their release. It did not give examples of the kinds of physical or mental abuse.

The Palestinian Prisoners Association accused Israel of continuing to withhold information on the people it detained in Gaza, including where they are being held.

Israel's operation in Gaza was triggered by Hamas's Oct. 7 attack, which by its tallies killed 1,200 with 253 taken hostage. Israel in turn has accused Hamas of abusing the hostages, including sexually.

The subsequent bombardment has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, with tens of thousands more wounded, and many feared still trapped under the rubble. The majority of Gaza's 2.3 million people have been displaced and aid agencies have warned famine is imminent.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Palestinians inspect destroyed residential buildings, after the Israeli military withdrew most of its ground troops from the southern Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip April 7, 2024. REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot/File Photo

In the past 24 hours, Israel's operations have killed 68 people and wounded 98, Palestinian health officials said.

Israel says it takes all possible precautions to avoid civilian casualties.

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