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Israel whistleblowers reveal torture, abuse of Palestinian detainees at desert facility

May 12, 2024 at 8:42 am

Palestinian prisoners were brought to Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah in south of Gaza as a result of the torture inflicted upon them during detention by Israeli forces in inhumane conditions [Firas Al-Shaer]

Further gruesome details of abuse, torture, and mistreatment of Palestinians held at an Israeli detention facility have been revealed by whistleblowers in a report, in the latest evidence of Israeli authorities’ violation of international law and their own legal system.

According to a report by CNN, which cited anonymous Israeli whistleblowers who worked at the Sde Teiman detention facility in the Negev desert, Israeli forces and authorities have been committing numerous human rights violations against Palestinian detainees including psychical and psychological torture, the withholding of rights, and medical malpractice such as amputations for injuries caused by constant zip-tying of wrists.

In one picture of the camp obtained by the report, detainees in grey tracksuits can be seen sitting while blindfolded and surrounded by fences of barbed wire. One Israeli source who worked at the facility said their orders were that “they were not allowed to move. They should sit upright. They’re not allowed to talk. Not allowed to peek under their blindfold”.

Told to scream “uskot”, or “shut up” in Arabic, the guards were also told to “pick people out that were problematic and punish them” through beatings and torture. According to another whistleblower, those beatings “were not done to gather intelligence. They were done out of revenge” for Hamas’s 7 October attacks on Israeli-held territory and as “punishment for behavior in the camp”.

One of the key detainees at such military detention camps who was interviewed by CNN was Dr Mohammed al-Ran, who headed the surgical unit at northern Gaza’s Indonesian hospital before it was shut down and raided by Israeli forces during the ongoing offensive. “We looked forward to the night so we could sleep. Then we looked forward to the morning in hopes that our situation might change”, he recalled.

READ: Palestinians released from Israel detention are thin, weak and show signs of torture

Throughout his 44 days under detention, he and his fellow detainees’ days “were filled with prayer, tears, and supplication. This eased our agony… We cried and cried and cried. We cried for ourselves, cried for our nation, cried for our community, cried for our loved ones. We cried about everything that crossed our minds.”

After being cleared of links with Hamas, Dr Al-Ran and other similar detainees were forced to serve as interpreters – or ‘shawish’ – between the guards and the prisoners, which led him to being allowed to remove his blindfold. That itself became another form of torture, however. “Part of my torture was being able to see how people were being tortured”, he said.

“At first you couldn’t see. You couldn’t see the torture, the vengeance, the oppression. When they removed my blindfold, I could see the extent of the humiliation and abasement… I could see the extent to which they saw us not as human beings but as animals.”

That dehumanisation was confirmed by one of the Israeli whistleblowers, who worked as a medic at the Sde Teiman facility’s field hospital, where wounded detainees were strapped to their beds while wearing diapers and being fed through straws. “They stripped them down of anything that resembles human beings”.

According to one medic, dealing with those patients instilled in him “an idea of total vulnerability”, in which being “unable to move, being unable to see what’s going on, and being completely naked, that leaves you completely exposed”. The source added that “I think that’s something that borders on, if not crosses to, psychological torture.”

In repose to the revelations, the Israeli military claimed in a statement that it “ensures proper conduct towards the detainees in custody. Any allegation of misconduct by IDF soldiers is examined and dealt with accordingly. In appropriate cases, MPCID (Military Police Criminal Investigation’s Division) investigations are opened when there is suspicion of misconduct justifying such action.”

While not directly denying that the detainees are stripped of their clothing or held in diapers, it insisted that the detainees “are handcuffed based on their risk level and health status. Incidents of unlawful handcuffing are not known to the authorities.”

READ: Israel treats Palestinian detainees in a degrading way, in defiance of international law