Since the start of the massive and unprecedented Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip and the genocide against its entire Palestinian population, ongoing since 7 October 2023, the Israeli army has launched widespread arbitrary arrest campaigns. These campaigns have targeted Palestinian civilians, including women, children, the elderly, and displaced people, and have occurred most commonly during Israel’s ground incursions into cities, refugee camps, and various residential neighbourhoods in the Strip.

The Israeli army launched its so-called “ground manoeuvre” operations in the Gaza Strip on 27 October 2023, storming and deeply penetrating densely populated areas. Areas that became filled with forcibly displaced people, such as cities, refugee camps, and shelter centres, particularly in Gaza City, North Gaza, Khan Yunis, and the two Al-Maghazi and Burij refugee camps, were then besieged by Israel’s military. The invading infantry and armoured forces, heavily supported by the air force, artillery, and battleships, adopted a method of comprehensive destruction of everything in their path, putting a “scorched-earth policy” into practice.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and injured as a direct result of Israeli military operations that targeted civilians and civilian objects in the Gaza Strip in a systematic and widespread manner; the majority of these casualties were women and children. Additionally, approximately two million people have been forced to evacuate, with 10s of thousands more trapped inside their homes, schools, or United Nations-designated shelters. These individuals, including those displaced to the southern Gaza Strip, have been subjected to crimes such as willful killing, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment at the hands of Israeli army forces.

Since the start of the arbitrary detention campaigns, numerous Israeli media outlets and Israeli-owned social media accounts—including the personal accounts of Israeli army personnel—have released images and videos of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in deplorable conditions. The images and video footage show Palestinians being stripped of their clothes, shackled, blindfolded, and lined up in rows in the streets, and brings to mind the brutal treatment of detainees in the United States-run Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo prisons.

There have been numerous reports of severe crimes and abuses committed against Palestinian inmates and prisoners in Israeli jails and detention facilities, including various types of willful killings. Among these are extrajudicial killings, arbitrary killings, torture that results in death, and denial of essential and life-saving medical care.

The true scope of the crimes committed by the Israeli army against Palestinian prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip is still unknown, particularly since the majority of those arrested—including women and children—are subject to the crime of enforced disappearance from the moment of their arrest. This is because Israel withholds lists of the names of those arrested from the Gaza Strip, refuses to provide any information about their whereabouts or fate, and forbids any party from visiting or communicating with them, including lawyers and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 

This report documents the crimes committed against Gaza Strip detainees, including serious and dehumanising abuses that are part of an ongoing genocide perpetrated by Israel.

The report is based on statements, testimonies, and in-person interviews conducted by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor team with 100 detainees who had been released from Israeli army custody following ground operations in different parts of the Gaza Strip. Approximately half of the detainees were men under 50, while the remaining 17 were elderly men; 22 were women, and four were children. Additional information was gathered from reports released by the relevant authorities, local and international media, and human rights organisations.

The information gathered leads to the conclusion that the Israeli army routinely and widely commits crimes of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, willful killing, torture, inhumane treatment, sexual violence, and denial of a fair trial. It also confirms that the Israeli army used physical and psychological torture against Palestinian civilian detainees, including beatings with the intent to kill, sexual violence, electrocution, blindfolding, and long-term hand and foot shackles. Detainees were also denied access to food and medical care, including critical and life-saving care, were spat and urinated upon, and were subjected to other cruel and degrading acts and psychological abuse, including threats of rape and death, insults, and other forms of sexual violence.

Many cases of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances by the Israeli army against vulnerable groups such as women, children, and the elderly were also documented by Euro-Med Monitor’s team. Analysis of statements from those who were released indicates that these crimes were primarily committed for retaliatory purposes, i.e. because the victims were Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Detainees suffered from various forms of physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment, despite the fact that Israeli investigators, from their own intelligence, were aware of their backgrounds and that they were civilians who did not participate in military activities.

Along with being detained and subjected to torture in Israeli military bases and detention facilities, including covert and unofficial detention centres, particularly those near the borders of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian detainees were also subjected to detention and prolonged detention without any due legal procedures or appearing before judicial authorities, in violation of pertinent international laws.

Not only did Israeli forces arbitrarily and illegally deprive Palestinian civilians of their freedom, but they also purposefully imposed further hardship and separation from their families by releasing them at the Kerem Shalom crossing, at the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. Since the Israeli army has imposed a military separation between the northern and southern areas of the Gaza Strip, the released northern residents are prevented from returning home and reuniting with their families, as the return of civilian residents from the southern and central regions of the Gaza Strip to the northern area is strictly forbidden.