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Israel's mass arrests of Palestinians continue in Gaza

What do we know about the Palestinians rounded up by Israel in Gaza?
6 min read
14 December, 2023
Israeli forces are conducting mass arrests in Gaza, arbitrarily detaining journalists, civilians and medical staff and taking them to unknown locations.
Israel is conducting mass arrests in Gaza despite global outcry from human rights groups [GETTY]

Israeli forces are continuing to conduct arrests and forcible disappearances of Palestinians in Gaza, following the images of dozens of men and teenagers stripped and blindfolded in north Gaza last week which sparked global outrage.

On Wednesday, after days of encircling the hospital and trapping people inside, the Israeli army entered the Kamal Al-Adwan Hospital in north Gaza and arrested 70 medical staff including the director Dr. Ahmed Al-Kahlot, taking them to an unknown location.

The raid has left the overstretched hospital, which had been under siege by the Israeli army for several days prior, in a grave situation. Israel has consistently targeted hospitals and medics since their brutal bombardment of the Gaza Strip began in October.

Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) said it was “gravely concerned for their welfare, as well as patients, staff and displaced people reportedly trapped inside without electricity, water or food.”

Among the 65 patients in the Kamal Al-Adwan Hospital, there are 12 children in the paediatric ward at risk of death having been left without milk and life-support equipment, as well as six babies in incubators, according to MAP and the Gaza health ministry.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a new image emerged purporting to show several Palestinians detained by Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

It was originally shared by Israel's Channel 12 and has elicited strong reaction online, due to its potential contravention of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.

The image originally appeared in the ‘reporters' chat’ section on Channel 12's website. It was posted by Nir Dvori, the channel's security and army correspondent. The picture was captioned "Detention of prisoners in Gaza".

The International Committee of the Red Cross recommends that "images that identify prisoners of war, or show them in humiliating or degrading situations, are not published unless there is a 'compelling public interest' in doing so".

What we know about the arrested

On Thursday 7 December, photos and videos circulated online showing large groups of Palestinian men stripped down to their underwear, blindfolded and arrested under the supervision of Israeli soldiers.

In one image, at least 30 blindfolded men can be seen kneeling down in a crater-like sand pit with Israeli soldiers standing beside them.

Eyewitness accounts and journalists reported that the men and been forcibly taken from buildings, including UNWRA schools, in Beit Lahia and the Jabaliya and Shejaiya areas of northern Gaza.

The army also stormed homes in Beit Lahia, removing the men and detaining them, before setting the houses on fire, reports said.

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters on Friday 8 December that over 200 men had been rounded up in the neighbourhoods of Jabaliya and Shejaiya and ‘dozens’ had been taken to prisons in Israel.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said doctors, academics, journalists and the elderly were among those taken from inside the Khalifa Bin Zayed and New Aleppo UNRWA affiliated schools.

One of the detained is Diaa Al-Kahlout, the Gaza bureau chief of The New Arab’s Arabic language channel Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, who was taken from his home in Beit Lahia and beaten by Israeli soldiers.

He later appeared in a video, stripped of his clothes with bound hands, along with other men who Israel accused of being part of Hamas.

His whereabouts are still unknown and on Wednesday the UN expressed concern over the fate of Al-Kahlout and said that the UN’s human rights agency was following his case.

Al-Kahlout’s sister said that he had been forced at gunpoint to leave his young disabled daughter, and that other relatives were also taken away, stripped and beaten.

Hani Issa, a correspondent for Al Quds news channel was also identified among the men.

In an Al-Jazeera report, Nader Zindah and his 14-year-old son Mahmoud described how they were taken to an abandoned warehouse and beaten, verbally abused, and deprived of food and water by Israeli soldiers.

After five days the father and son along with a handful of other men were released near Wadi Gaza and rescued by Palestinians who took them to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

The arrests at the Kamal Al-Adwan hospital were just the latest in a string of assaults on medical staff by Israeli forces.

In November, Dr Saleh Eleiwa was one of dozens of medics arrested at Al Shifa Hospital in central Gaza, including the hospital director Mohammed Abu Salmiya and taken to unknown locations.

The family of Eleiwa has said they fear he is being tortured to fabricate a story about military activity at the hospital, which the Israeli government claimed is a Hamas operations and command centre in an attempt to justify their brutal siege.

The global response

On Tuesday, following days of global condemnation, the Israeli military claimed that only 10 to 15 percent of those detained where affiliated with Hamas.

In response to earlier widespread outrage of the footage of the blindfolded and tied up men, Israel said that the men had to be stripped to ensure they were unarmed.

Israeli officials had also touted claim that the Palestinian men were ‘surrendering’ and circulated a video showing a man in his underwear appearing to ‘handover’ a rifle.

The video has since been clarified by investigative journalists.

BBC Verify, the broadcaster’s investigative team, said that the footage showed a man ‘going to and fro bringing guns to the pavement’.

BBC Verify noted that the man is being held at gunpoint and issued commands from someone off-screen: “it’s unclear whether he is ‘surrendering’ the weapons or just moving them as instructed.”

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s national security advisor told Israeli media that the photos were taken with permission of authorities but admitted that the images being circulated ‘serve nobody’.

Senior Hamas official Izzat El Reshiq said Israel was guilty of a “heinous crime” and urged human rights organizations to secure their release.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was concerned by the images and reiterated the role of international humanitarian law in treatment of detainees.

Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions state that prisoners in armed conflicts must be treated ‘humanely’ and that ‘humiliating and degrading treatment’ is prohibited.

The head of the Palestinian Mission in the UK Husam Zomlot said that the images of the men blindfolded and lined up evoked “some of humanity’s darkest passages of history.”