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Uncovering the Abuse of Palestinian Detainees by Israeli Settlers and Soldiers

Testimonies from released detainees and human rights lawyers, in conjunction with video footage and images, have shed light on the forms of torture and ill-treatment endured by Palestinian detainees at the hands of Israeli forces.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

Recent reports have shed light on disturbing allegations of abuse and mistreatment against Palestinian detainees by Israeli settlers and soldiers. These allegations encompass a range of egregious methods, including beatings, burns, attempted sexual assault, torture, degrading treatment, and collective punishment.

Palestinian detainees have reported being subjected to physical violence, including beatings by Israeli settlers and soldiers, leading to serious injuries in some cases. Additionally, there are disturbing claims of burns inflicted upon Palestinian detainees in the context of abuse by Israeli forces. Furthermore, there are harrowing allegations of attempted sexual assault, adding to the gravity of the mistreatment suffered by Palestinian detainees at the hands of Israeli perpetrators.

The issue of torture is particularly alarming, with accusations that Israeli judicial authorities have failed to impartially and independently investigate complaints of torture and ill-treatment, as well as prosecute those responsible. Palestinian detainees have reported being subjected to degrading treatment, which includes being bound, stripped, and even urinated upon by Israeli settlers and soldiers. Moreover, there are distressing accounts of released Palestinian prisoners facing abuse, threats of rape, and collective punishment within Israeli jails.

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Settlers and soldiers alike

The severity of these allegations is underscored by the fact that they are based on reports and testimonies from the affected individuals. It is imperative to note that the information provided is not exhaustive, and further research may reveal additional details on the methods employed by Israel in the mistreatment of Palestinian detainees.

Amnesty International has been at the forefront of documenting the widespread torture by Israeli authorities in places of detention across the West Bank for decades. The organization has reported a significant increase in arbitrary arrests of Palestinians by Israeli authorities, as well as a heightened use of administrative detention, a form of arbitrary imprisonment. Testimonies from released detainees and human rights lawyers, in conjunction with video footage and images, have shed light on the forms of torture and ill-treatment endured by Palestinian detainees at the hands of Israeli forces.

Of profound concern is the failure of Israeli authorities to investigate incidents of torture and death in custody. It is crucial to recognize that the use of torture and ill-treatment against protected persons in an occupied territory constitutes a war crime under international law.

The detainees speak out

Several specific cases exemplify the horrifying extent of the mistreatment suffered by Palestinian detainees. For instance, Mahmoud, a 17-year-old Palestinian, was shot in the back by an Israeli settler in the West Bank, and subsequent to receiving medical treatment, he was arrested by Israeli forces and sentenced to six months of 'administrative detention' without charge. Anwar, an ex-detainee who was imprisoned for five years before being released, reported a significant escalation in violence against prisoners following the outbreak of war, including incidents of torture and degrading treatment. Another case involved Mohammad Abdel-Samad, who suffered severe beatings resulting in permanent disabilities after refusing to kiss an Israeli flag.

The testimonies from released detainees further highlight the pervasive nature of torture and ill-treatment by Israeli forces. Detainees reported being forced into dehumanizing positions, such as being forced to keep their heads down for extended periods, kneeling on the floor during inmate count, and being compelled to sing Israeli songs as a form of humiliation. Additionally, strip-searching, physical abuse, and other forms of degradation have been reported, indicating a systematic pattern of abuse and mistreatment against Palestinian detainees.

Israel's Continued Detention of Palestinians

Israel's recent detention of numerous Palestinians, including those held without charge or trial, has sparked concerns over the legal basis for detention and the treatment of detainees. Within a month, the number of Palestinians in administrative detention has surged from 1,319 to 2,070. Additionally, the Israeli army has detained around 3,260 Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7. These detentions, taking place amidst an ongoing conflict, have prompted criticisms of Israel's military-imposed legal system in the West Bank, with some human rights organizations expressing concerns of persecution.

On November 27, 2023, Israel released 39 Palestinians from Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank as part of a deal negotiated for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. Among the released detainees were 17 minors and 22 adult women. Israel had considered releasing a total of 300 Palestinians as part of the agreement with Hamas. Meanwhile, the number of Palestinians held in administrative detention under Israel's counter-terrorism policy has been reported to reach 2,200.

3,260 Palestinians detained

Since October 7, the Israeli army has detained around 3,260 Palestinians in the West Bank. On November 27, an additional 60 Palestinians were arrested, bringing the total number of detainees to 3,260. These detentions have sparked concerns regarding the legal basis for detention, as well as the treatment of detainees. Various human rights organizations have criticized Israel's military-imposed legal system in the West Bank, viewing it as evidence of persecution.

As of November 6, 2023, Israeli authorities were holding approximately 7,000 Palestinians in detention. Among them, 2,070 were held under administrative detention. The Israel Prison Service reported that, as of the end of September 2023, it was holding 4,764 Palestinians in detention or prison on security grounds. The number of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel has been on the rise, with an estimated 650,000 Palestinians imprisoned since 1967. In 2010, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics indicated that there were "over 7,000" Palestinians in Israeli jails, including 264 under administrative detention.

The situation brings into question the legal grounds for detention and the treatment of detainees. Of particular concern are the number of women and children being held in Israeli prisons. According to the available data, there are currently 33 female prisoners and 170 child prisoners. These figures highlight the presence of women and children among Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails.

A long list

The demographic breakdown of detainees in Israeli prisons is as follows:

  • Total Number of Political Prisoners: 7,000
  • Administrative Detainees: 2,070
  • Child prisoners: 200
  • Female prisoners: 62
  • 1948 Territories prisoners: 150
  • Jerusalemite prisoners: 300
  • Gaza prisoners: 300
  • Palestinian Legislative Council members: 17
  • Prisoners before Oslo: 22
  • Prisoners serving a sentence above 20 years: 559
  • Prisoners serving life sentences: 432
  • Prisoners serving more than 20 years: 432
  • Prisoners serving more than 25 years: 40

These statistics highlight the diverse demographic composition of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. However, the available sources do not specify the average length of time that women and children are held in Israeli prisons.

Nevertheless, previous data offers some insights. In May 2008, there were over 9,080 Palestinian political prisoners, including 73 women, 2 girls aged 16 and 17, and 24 mothers with a total of 68 children. In 2022, the Palestinian Prisoners Society reported that 7,200 prisoners were held by Israel, including 88 women and 250 children aged 17 and under. Furthermore, as of April 2022, there were 4,450 Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli prisons, including 160 children, 32 women, and over 1,000 "administrative detainees" held indefinitely without charge.

While it is clear that women and children are being held in Israeli prisons, the exact average length of their detention is not provided in the available sources. However, these figures demonstrate the ongoing concern for the well-being of women and children in Israeli custody.