Palestinians recount torture and sexual abuse in Israeli detention facility: report

Palestinians recount torture and sexual abuse in Israeli detention facility: report
Around 4,000 Palestinians have spent up to three months in the Sde Teiman base, with many giving accounts of abuse and torture at the Israeli facility.
4 min read
07 June, 2024
Palestinian detainees from Gaza often get moved into Israeli civilian or military prisons for further interrogation [Getty]

An Israeli military base in southern Israel is holding thousands of Palestinians in detention where mistreatment and torture is rife, according to a new report.

Since 7 October, the Sde Teiman military base has been used to detain roughly 4,000 Palestinians from Gaza, with some staying at the base for three months before release or transfer into Israel’s prison system.

Around 1,200 Palestinians who were at the base have been released back into Gaza after being found to be civilians.

A report by the New York Times (NYT) revealed that although many had been released after being found to be civilians, those people still underwent interrogations that are consistent with practices of torture.

Seven former detainees at the base, and whose detention was verified by the Israeli military for the report, gave accounts describing forms of torture being widespread at the base.

These accusations include repeated beatings during interrogations or for minor infractions, such as peeking under blindfolds or sleeping when not permitted.

Such accounts of beatings were corroborated by Israeli soldiers speaking to NYT, who said that colleagues boasted about beatings, and that at least one person had died as a result of being beaten.

At least 35 Palestinians have died at the base since 7 October, although Israeli officers speaking to NYT at the facility denied the deaths were as a result of abuse.

The officers said that 12 soldiers had been dismissed from the base, some for excessive use of force.

Other forms of torture mentioned by the former detainees include the use of loud music to prevent detainees from sleeping, with one detainee saying blood trickled from his ear as a result.

The use of electrocution in interrogations caused detainees to pass out, with some being forced to sit on metal rods fixed to the ground.

Accounts of torture

Younis Al-Hamlawi, 39, a senior nurse at Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital who was arrested from the site, said a female officer at the facility had ordered two soldiers to lift him up and press his rectum against a metal stick that was fixed to the ground.

Al-Hamlawi said the stick penetrated his rectum for roughly five seconds, causing it to bleed and leaving him with "unbearable pain."

The nurse added that he was forced to wear nothing but a diaper, to stop him from soiling the floor. He also recalled being shocked by electricity so often, that after initially urinating uncontrollably, he then stopped urinating for several days.

Other detainees are regularly denied access to a judge to plead their case for up to 75 days, and denied access to a lawyer for up to 90 days.

This has been described as a contravention of international law by some legal experts the NYT spoke to.

In a statement given to the NYT,  the Israeli military denied there was "systemic abuse" at Sde Teiman and that such action is "strictly prohibited", adding that the accounts of detainees were inaccurate or unfounded, suggesting that Hamas may have pressured such accounts.

Israel announced it is set to phase out the use of the base as a detention facility on Wednesday, with detainees being transferred to other prisons. 

Since 7 October Israel’s war on Gaza has killed 36,731 Palestinians, with a further 83,530 wounded.

Israel has also detained thousands of Palestinians since the beginning of its ground assault, including medical personnel and journalists.

Diaa al-Kahlout, the Gaza bureau chief for The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, was rounded up by Israeli forces along with dozens of others in December.

Over 33 days in Israeli custody, Kahlout said he was interrogated about his journalism and subjected to physical and psychological mistreatment.