Israeli minister Ben-Gvir orders 'Hamas prisoners' to be held underground
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the country's prison service to re-open a defunct underground prison wing to house arrested what Israel claims are members of Hamas's armed branch, the Al-Qassam Brigades, Israeli media reported on Friday, 8 December.
According to the country's Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry, Israel is holding what it claims are "118 Al-Qassam fighters" who were captured during the Hamas-led surprise attack on 7 October, which killed around 1,200 Israeli civilians and military personnel.
Israel has since killed over 17,100 people, mainly women and children, in its war across the Gaza Strip.
Ben-Gvir has ordered the underground wing of the Nitzan Prison in central Israel to be used to house the captured Palestinian fighters.
The underground wing of the prison has not been in use for years, with the National Security minister saying the conditions are "not among the best" but "comply with the provisions of the law."
"The policy we are leading now is minimal conditions for these heinous murderers," Ben-Gvir said.
Israel has attracted a firestorm of criticism of its treatment of Palestinian prisoners, most recently with soldiers rounding up, stripping and shackling men in Beit Lahia in Gaza on Thursday.
Israeli media published photos of prisoners kneeling in their underwear, blindfolded, in front of a sand pit. However, it is unclear if those prisoners were the same taken from Beit Lahia earlier in the day.
Israel said that those arrested were members of Hamas, but Palestinians in the area have since said that their relatives are among those detained and are not part of the armed group.
Diaa al-Kahlout, the Gaza bureau chief of The New Arab's Arabic language service, al-Araby, was among those arrested in Beit Lahia and appeared in a photo, stripped to his underwear with bound hands.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has since called for al-Kahlout's release.
Palestinians held in Israeli prisoners have reported being subject to beatings and being denied medical treatment, claims Israeli officials have denied.