Palestinian men arrested and stripped naked by Israeli forces in the middle of winter in Gaza before being taken to an undisclosed location (Screengrab/X)

Last Tuesday (16), UNRWA, the United Nations arm for assistance to Palestinian refugees, released an alarming report that exposes the mistreatment inflicted by the Israeli army on war hostages. Despite Israel’s claims that it only arrests Hamas members, the report details cases in which children and the elderly were captured during the latest offensives.

Titled “Detention and Alleged Mistreatment of Gaza Detainees during the Israel-Hamas War”, the report was prepared based on testimonies from victims who preferred to remain anonymous. The document reveals cases of physical torture, deprivation of food, water and sleep, as well as extreme sexual violence. According to reports, detainees were held in inhumane conditions, including makeshift cages, while they were subjected to brutal interrogations.

During the capture, the hostages were taken to Israeli prisons, where they faced inhumane conditions. They were deprived of water, food and even the right to use the bathroom. Violent interrogations, beatings with iron bars and dog bites were reported as part of the treatment inflicted on prisoners.

In addition to physical torture, the report highlights deplorable housing conditions. The hostages were forced to sleep for just five hours, often exposed to the winter cold, with fans that further reduced the temperature of the room.

A 46-year-old man, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared his experience: “I saw people who were 70 years old, very old… people with disabilities who couldn’t walk, people with epilepsy… and the torture was for everyone. Even for people who didn’t know their own names.”

His testimony reveals the extent of the cruelty inflicted on detainees, without distinction. Another man, aged 41, reported being sexually assaulted with a hot metal bar and beaten with shoes.

In April, more than 1,500 Palestinian hostages were released by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Among them were 43 children, 84 women and 16 family members of UNRWA employees. However, the report reveals that many of these hostages were victims of sexual assault, forced to undress in front of soldiers, who photographed them naked.

A 34-year-old Palestinian woman described the abuse: “The soldiers were asked to spit on me… a male soldier took off our hijabs and they pinched us and touched our bodies, including our breasts.”

The consequences of these brutal acts were devastating, leaving many hostages sick or injured. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society was called in to transport the sick to local hospitals.

The allegations were vehemently contested by Israel, which accused the freed prisoners of lying and insinuated that members of UNRWA, the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, are complicit with Hamas.

Despite the damning accusations, Israeli authorities denied the accusations of torture, stating that such practices “violate the values ​​of the IDF”. UNRWA protested against the Israeli authorities, but has so far received no official response from the country.

Israel refuted the accusations, saying it acts in accordance with Israeli and international law to protect those detained in its custody. However, the UN report casts serious doubt on these allegations, highlighting an urgent and impartial investigation as necessary to hold those responsible for the abuses accountable.


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