What of Gaza’s ‘other hostages’ — the thousands of Palestinians held in Israel without charge?

Analysis What of Gaza’s ‘other hostages’ — the thousands of Palestinians held in Israel without charge?
Badr Dahlan, who was released on June 20 by the Israeli army, appeared to be in a state of shock as he answered questions at Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah. (Getty Images)
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Updated 26 June 2024
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What of Gaza’s ‘other hostages’ — the thousands of Palestinians held in Israel without charge?

What of Gaza’s ‘other hostages’ — the thousands of Palestinians held in Israel without charge?
  • Survivors of Israeli detention describe a pattern of beatings, torture and abuse without access to family or lawyers
  • NGOs have reported a dramatic rise in the number of Palestinians incarcerated without charge or trial since Oct. 7

LONDON: A disturbing video emerged on social media last week of a Palestinian man identified as 29-year-old Badr Dahlan.

Wide-eyed and rocking back and forth as he spoke, Dahlan appeared to be in a state of shock as he answered questions at Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza, shortly after his release from Israeli custody.

Dahlan, described by those who knew him as “a socially active and beloved young man,” appeared utterly transformed by the month he had spent in Israeli custody since he was seized in Khan Younis.

He described a pattern of beatings, torture and abuse that has become familiar to NGOs monitoring the dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians being incarcerated without charge or trial since the Gaza conflict began last October.




Badr Dahlan (L) and other detainees were seen to be weakened and had scars on their bodies following their release on June 20. (Getty Images)

As the world’s attention continues to be focused on the remaining hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, the plight of “the other hostages” — thousands of innocent Palestinian adults and children seized and held by Israel without charge — is largely ignored.

“There are currently about 9,200 prisoners in total from the West Bank and the Occupied Territories,” said Jenna Abu Hsana, international advocacy officer at Ramallah-based Palestinian NGO Addameer — the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

“Of those, we believe about 3,200 are administrative detainees.”

Administrative detention “is basically a tool that is used by the occupation to indefinitely detain Palestinians for a prolonged period of time,” in prisons run by the Israel Prisons Service,” she said.

Detainees are charged and “tried” by military courts, but the process bypasses all norms of internationally accepted judicial procedure.

“There isn’t really a ‘charge’ because no evidence is presented against the detainee,” said Abu Hsana. “Any so-called evidence is kept in a secret file to which the detainee and their lawyer do not have access.”




Israeli soldiers stand by a truck packed with bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainees, in Gaza, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (AP)

Incarceration can last up to six months at a time and can then be extended for another six months at the discretion of the military.

Originally, the case against people held under this law had to be judicially reviewed within 14 days, but in December this was extended to 75 days. Simultaneously, the amount of time for which a prisoner could be denied a meeting with an attorney was raised from 10 days to 75 or, with the court’s approval, up to 180 days.

This is an invidious situation, says B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, which “leaves the detainees helpless — facing unknown allegations with no way to disprove them, not knowing when they will be released, and without being charged, tried or convicted.”

Israel “routinely uses administrative detention and has, over the years, placed thousands of Palestinians behind bars for periods ranging from several months to several years, without charging them, without telling them what they are accused of, and without disclosing the alleged evidence to them or to their lawyers.”

The situation in Gaza is slightly different, in that detainees held there since October have been arrested and held incommunicado in military camps under Israel’s Law on Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants, which was introduced in 2002.

But the effect is the same as for those being held under administrative detention. “Detainees can be held in these military camps for prolonged periods of time, with no charge and no evidence,” said Abu Hsana.

Before Oct. 7, Israel was holding about 5,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and the Occupied Territories in its prisons, of whom roughly 1,000 were being held under administrative detention.

Since Oct. 7, however, “the numbers have escalated,” said Abu Hsana. “There are currently over 9,200 detainees in the prisons, and of these 3,200 are being held under administrative detention.”

However, NGOs are struggling to determine exactly how many people have been taken in Gaza.

“We don’t have any accurate numbers because the occupation refuses to release any information, but we are told that it’s currently around 3,000 to 5,000 detainees.”

Most are held at one of two military sites — Camp Anatot, near Jerusalem, and Sde Teman, near Beersheba in the northern Negev.




Prisoners at Sde Teiman detention facility. NGOs are struggling to determine exactly how many people have been taken in Gaza since Oct. 7. (X)

Access to families and even lawyers is denied throughout a prisoner’s detention in these camps. But as some have been released over the past few months, shocking details have begun to emerge.

“For the detainees from Gaza, it’s especially difficult because they are handcuffed and blindfolded throughout their entire detention, from the moment of their arrest until they’re released, and the plastic zip ties being used are very tight and have caused many serious injuries,” said Abu Hsana.

In April, Israeli newspaper Haaretz obtained a copy of a letter sent to Israel’s attorney general and the ministers of defense and health by a distressed Israeli doctor at Sde Teman.

“Just this week,” the doctor wrote, “two prisoners had their legs amputated due to handcuff injuries, which unfortunately is a routine event.”

He added: “I have faced serious ethical dilemmas. More than that, I am writing to warn you that the facilities’ operations do not comply with a single section among those dealing with health in the Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law.”

None of the detainees, he added, were receiving appropriate medical care.

All this, he concluded, “makes all of us — the medical teams and you, those in charge of us in the health and defense ministries — complicit in the violation of Israeli law, and perhaps worse for me as a doctor, in the violation of my basic commitment to patients, wherever they are, as I swore when I graduated 20 years ago.”




A member of the Israeli security forces stands next to a blind-folded Palestinian prisoner on the border with Gaza near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on October 8, 2023. (AFP)

UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, recently published a scathing report condemning the treatment of Palestinians who had been held, without charge or trial, and later released.

The report was based on information obtained through UNRWA’s role in coordinating humanitarian aid at the Karem Abu Salem crossing point between Gaza and Israel, where Israeli security forces have been regularly releasing detainees since early November 2023.

By April 4, UNRWA had documented the release of 1,506 detainees, including 43 children and 84 women. Detainees reported having been sent multiple times for interrogations and enduring extensive ill-treatment.

This included “being subjected to beatings while made to lie on a thin mattress on top of rubble for hours without food, water or access to a toilet, with their legs and hands bound with plastic ties.”

Several detainees, said UNRWA, “reported being forced into cages and attacked by dogs. Some released detainees, including a child, had dog bite wounds on their body.”




Israeli soldiers detain blindfolded Palestinian men in a military truck on November 19, 2023. (AFP)

Other methods of ill-treatment reported included “physical beatings, threats of physical harm, insults and humiliation such as being made to act like animals or getting urinated on, use of loud music and noise, deprivation of water, food, sleep and toilets, denial of the right to pray and prolonged use of tightly locked handcuffs causing open wounds and friction injuries.”

In a statement provided to the BBC in response to UNRWA’s findings, the Israel Defense Forces said: “The mistreatment of detainees during their time in detention or whilst under interrogation violates IDF values and contravenes IDF and is therefore absolutely prohibited.”

It rejected specific allegations including the denial of access to water, medical care and bedding. The IDF also said that claims regarding sexual abuse were “another cynical attempt to create false equivalency with the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war by Hamas.”

Israeli peace activists have protested outside the camp, holding banners reading “Sde Teman torture camp” and “Israel makes people disappear.” In an apparent attempt to dampen growing unease about its treatment of detainees, earlier this month (June) Israel invited The New York Times “to briefly see part of” the facility.

If the authorities were hoping for a stamp of approval, they were to be disappointed.




Israelis protest at Sde Teman “Torture camp” where Palestinians are held. (X)

On June 6, the paper described “the scene one afternoon in late May at a military hangar inside Sde Teman.” In barbed-wire cages, the paper reported, “men sat in rows, handcuffed and blindfolded … barred from talking more loudly than a murmur, and forbidden to stand or sleep except when authorized.”

All were “cut off from the outside world, prevented for weeks from contacting lawyers or relatives.”

By late May, the NYT was told, about 4,000 Gazan detainees had spent up to three months in limbo at Sde Teman, including “several dozen” people captured during the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7.

After interrogation, “around 70 percent of detainees had been sent to purpose-built prisons for further investigation and prosecution.

“The rest, at least 1,200 people, had been found to be civilians and returned to Gaza, without charge, apology or compensation.”

On May 23, a group of Israeli human rights organizations petitioned the Supreme Court calling for the camp’s closure. The government has agreed to scale back activities there and the court has ordered the state to report back on conditions at the facility by June 30.

But protesters and NGOs say the scandal of Sde Teman is just the tip of the iceberg.




Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian man as he attempts to attend the first Friday noon prayer of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on March 15, 2024. (AFP)

“Scores of testimonies reveal pervasive torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees, with numerous reports of deaths in Israeli prisons and military camps, blatantly violating the absolute prohibition of torture under international law,” said Miriam Azem, international advocacy and communications associate with Adalah — the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

“Thousands of Palestinians are held under administrative detention without charge or trial, based on secret evidence, in deplorable and life-threatening conditions.

“Hundreds of Palestinians from Gaza remain held incommunicado, without access to lawyers or family, their whereabouts unknown, under a legal framework that permits enforced disappearances, constituting a grave violation of international law.

“The urgency of the current moment demands immediate and resolute intervention from the international community. Failure to act poses a threat to Palestinian lives.”

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities

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Tunisia migrants in ‘unsuitable conditions’: rights group

Tunisia migrants in ‘unsuitable conditions’: rights group
Updated 5 sec ago
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Tunisia migrants in ‘unsuitable conditions’: rights group

Tunisia migrants in ‘unsuitable conditions’: rights group
  • FTDES found that 77 percent of those interviewed for the study were subjected to physical or verbal violence, though only about five percent filed a complaint “due to their administrative status”

TUNIS: More than half of the mainly sub-Saharan migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Tunisia currently live in “unsuitable conditions,” a domestic rights group said Tuesday.
In its latest study on migration, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) found that “over half” of migrants in Tunisia lived “in the street, public parks, encampments, and outdoor areas.”
Tunisia is a key departure point for irregular migrants attempting perilous sea crossings across the Mediterranean to seek better lives in Europe.
Earlier this month, Tunisian Interior Minister Khaled Nouri said that more than 74,000 migrants were intercepted while trying to make the sea crossing to Europe between January 1 and mid-July.
FTDES found that 77 percent of those interviewed for the study were subjected to physical or verbal violence, though only about five percent filed a complaint “due to their administrative status.”
Even when they were sick, nine in 10 people interviewed said they did not seek health treatment “for fear of arrest.”
Anti-migrant violence spiked last year in Tunisia after President Kais Saied said in a speech that “hordes of illegal migrants” posed a demographic threat to the country.
Many were kicked out of their homes and lost their jobs amid an ensuing wave of attacks on migrants.
The study said that authorities’ mistreatment of migrants further motivates them to leave Tunisia.
But with the EU’s increasing efforts to curb migration, they often found themselves stranded in the North African country.
The migrants’ situation in Tunisia is influenced by “external factors related to Europe’s migratory policy,” FTDES spokesman Romdhane Ben Amor said.
The Tunisian state, he added, “needs this (migration) crisis externally to receive more funds ... and internally to present itself as the protector of Tunisians.”
Last summer, Tunisia and the European Union signed an agreement through which Tunis received financial aid worth 105 million euros ($112 million) in return for measures to deter migrant departures, including ramping up interceptions.
Between January 1 and June 25 this year, some 3,500 migrants were sent back to their home countries through the International Organization for Migration’s “voluntary humanitarian return program.”
That figure marked a 200 percent increase in voluntary repatriations compared to the same period in 2023.
 

 


Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye

Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye
Updated 23 min 28 sec ago
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Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye

Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye
  • Iraq has not followed Turkiye’s lead in designating the PKK a terrorist group but has put it on its list of banned organizations

IRBIL, Iraq: The Iraqi government announced Tuesday an official ban on a Kurdish separatist group which has been engaged in in a long-running conflict with Turkiye.
Turkiye has been seeking greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkiye since the 1980s and is banned there.
The order issued July 14 and published Tuesday by the Department of Administrative Affairs at the Iraqi Parliament said Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani had issued instructions for the PKK to be described as the “banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party” in all official correspondence. It was the clearest statement from the Iraqi government on the group’s status to date.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Iraq in April for the first time in more than a decade. At the time, Erdogan said he and Sudani had “consulted on the joint steps we can take against the PKK terrorist organization and its extensions, which target Turkiye from Iraqi territory.”
Iraq has not followed Turkiye’s lead in designating the PKK a terrorist group but has put it on its list of banned organizations.
The PKK has maintained bases in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. In recent months, Turkiye has built up its troops in northern Iraq and has threatened an offensive to clear PKK forces from the border area.
Turkiye often launches strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq that it believes to be affiliated with the PKK. Baghdad has complained that the strikes are a breach of its sovereignty, but earlier this year, the two governments issued a joint statement saying that the “PKK organization represents a security threat to both Turkiye and Iraq.”
The Turkish defense ministry said Tuesday that four suspected PKK militants were killed in an air offensive in northern Iraq, including one who was allegedly on a list of militants most wanted by Turkiye.
The ministry identified the man as Yusuf Kalkan and said he was wanted for membership in a terror organization as well as for founding and directing a terror group.

 


Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan

Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan
Updated 32 min 38 sec ago
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Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan

Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan
  • Foreign Minister Badr Abdelatty also pledges Egypt’s continuing commitment to humanitarian aid efforts and development projects in Sudan
  • He stresses important need for donor countries and organizations to more quickly honor pledges of aid for Sudan and countries hosting Sudanese refugees

Egypt’s foreign minister, Badr Abdelatty, pledged his country’s continued support for the stability and security of Sudan, during a meeting on Tuesday with his counterpart from the country, Hussein Awad.

Abdelatty said Egypt would spare no effort to help its “Sudanese brothers overcome the political, security and humanitarian challenges resulting from the ongoing war” in the nation.

He highlighted the outcomes of a conference in Cairo on July 6 and 7 attended by Sudanese political factions and civil groups, the most important of which were, he said, recognition of the need to preserve state institutions, to provide relief and humanitarian support to Sudan and neighboring countries, and to ensure ownership of the political process remains with the Sudanese people.

He also reviewed the progress of development projects undertaken by Egypt in Sudan, and pledged his country’s continuing commitment to such initiatives along with its determination to respond to the nation’s humanitarian needs.

Abdelatty stressed the important need for donor countries and organizations to accelerate the fulfillment of pledges made during conferences in Geneva and Paris, in June 2023 and April 2024 respectively, of support for Sudan and neighboring countries hosting Sudanese refugees, support for the UN’s humanitarian response plan in the country, and to help bridge existing financing gaps.

He also discussed with Awad regional initiatives that have been proposed to help address the crisis in Sudan, and the important and pivotal role neighboring countries are playing, especially Egypt, which Abdelatty said was making strenuous efforts to help Sudan at this important time.

Other topics for discussion included wider bilateral ties and ways in which coordination between the countries might be enhanced, along with regional issues of mutual interest, including the situation in the Horn of Africa, the war in Gaza, security in the Red Sea, the situations in Libya, the Sahel and the Sahara region, and the Renaissance Dam built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile upstream of Sudan and Egypt.

Awad thanked the Egyptian government for the facilities and services it has provided to the Sudanese people since the start of the crisis in his country.


Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
Updated 37 min 41 sec ago
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Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
  • In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy

KENITRA, Morocco: Golden fields of wheat no longer produce the bounty they once did in Morocco. A six-year drought has imperiled the country’s entire agriculture sector, including farmers who grow cereals and grains used to feed humans and livestock.
The North African nation projects this year’s harvest will be smaller than last year in both volume and acreage, putting farmers out of work and requiring more imports and government subsidies to prevent the price of staples like flour from rising for everyday consumers.
“In the past, we used to have a bounty — a lot of wheat. But during the last seven or eight years, the harvest has been very low because of the drought,” said Al Housni Belhoussni, a small-scale farmer who has long tilled fields outside of the city of Kenitra.

A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

Belhoussni’s plight is familiar to grain farmers throughout the world confronting a hotter and drier future. Climate change is imperiling the food supply and, in regions like North Africa, shrinking the annual yields of cereals that dominate diets around the world — wheat, rice, maize and barley.
The region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change. Delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.
In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy. It has forced some to leave their fields fallow. It has also made the areas they do elect to cultivate less productive, producing far fewer sacks of wheat to sell than they once did.

Farmers work on a wheat farm on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

In response, the government has announced restrictions on water use in urban areas — including on public baths and car washes — and in rural ones, where water going to farms has been rationed.
“The late rains during the autumn season affected the agriculture campaign. This year, only the spring rains, especially during the month of March, managed to rescue the crops,” said Abdelkrim Naaman, the chairman of Nalsya. The organization has advised farmers on seeding, irrigation and drought mitigation as less rain falls and less water flows through Morocco’s rivers.
The Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year’s wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons (3.1 billion kilograms), far less than last year’s 6.1 million tons (5.5 billion kilograms) — a yield that was still considered low. The amount of land seeded has dramatically shrunk as well, from 14,170 square miles (36,700 square kilometers) to 9,540 square miles (24,700 square kilometers).
Such a drop constitutes a crisis, said Driss Aissaoui, an analyst and former member of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture.
“When we say crisis, this means that you have to import more,” he said. “We are in a country where drought has become a structural issue.”
Leaning more on imports means the government will have to continue subsidizing prices to ensure households and livestock farmers can afford dietary staples for their families and flocks, said Rachid Benali, the chairman of the farming lobby COMADER.
The country imported nearly 2.5 million tons of common wheat between January and June. However, such a solution may have an expiration date, particularly because Morocco’s primary source of wheat, France, is facing shrinking harvests as well.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization ranked Morocco as the world’s sixth-largest wheat importer this year, between Turkiye and Bangladesh, which both have much bigger populations.
“Morocco has known droughts like this and in some cases known droughts that las longer than 10 years. But the problem, this time especially, is climate change,” Benali said.

 


Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says

Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says
Updated 23 July 2024
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Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says

Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says
  • Nine of the 16-member crew were found alive and one dead, the center reiterated, without giving further detail on the fate of the remaining six crew members

CAIRO: The rescue operation for the Comoros-flagged Prestige Falcon oil tanker that capsized off Oman on July 15 has been deactivated, Oman’s Maritime Security Center said on Tuesday.
Nine of the 16-member crew were found alive and one dead, the center reiterated, without giving further detail on the fate of the remaining six crew members.