US ‘deeply concerned’ after report alleges Gaza prisoners abused at Israeli facility

Citing Israeli whistleblowers and freed detainees, CNN describes beatings, psychological abuse, medical neglect, prisoners tied near-naked to beds; IDF denies improper treatment

Hamas terror suspects, caught during Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 and during the ongoing IDF operations in Gaza, seen at a courtyard in a prison in southern Israel, February 14, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Hamas terror suspects, caught during Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 and during the ongoing IDF operations in Gaza, seen at a courtyard in a prison in southern Israel, February 14, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The United States has said it is “deeply concerned” over a recent report alleging abuse of Gaza detainees at an Israeli detention facility holding terror suspects detained during the ongoing war with Hamas in the Strip.

Citing two Israeli whistleblowers and a Palestinian doctor who was held in the Sde Teiman facility in the Negev, the report detailed alleged widespread abuse of detainees, including extreme use of physical restraints, beatings, neglect of medical problems, arbitrary punishments and more.

Most of the detainees at the facility are suspected terror operatives arrested during the months-long Gaza war, though it is believed that some are terrorists arrested in Israel during the atrocities of October 7.

Suspected terror operatives are legally allowed to be held for 45 days before they must either be released or moved on to the care of the Israel Prison Service.

The two Israeli sources said prisoners were forced to sit up straight for long hours, blindfolded much of the time, and were not allowed to speak. A common form of punishment for those who spoke or otherwise offended was to force them to hold their arms over their head for an hour. Some had their arms zip-tied to the fence over their heads.

The military denied widespread abuse, telling CNN: “The IDF ensures proper conduct towards the detainees in custody. Any allegation of misconduct by IDF soldiers is examined and dealt with accordingly. In appropriate cases, Military Police investigations are opened when there is suspicion of misconduct justifying such action.”

It added that “detainees are handcuffed based on their risk level and health status. Incidents of unlawful handcuffing are not known to the authorities.”

Another of the Israeli sources shared photos he took at the detention facility at Sde Teiman, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Gaza border, which show around a hundred blindfolded men in grey tracksuits in a floodlit area surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

“[The beatings] were not done to gather intelligence. They were done out of revenge,” one whistleblower quoted by CNN said. “It was punishment for what [the Palestinians] did on October 7 and punishment for behavior in the camp.”

CNN said it spoke to at least 12 people who were held either at Sde Teiman or at other similar facilities and were later released. One said he was held for 44 days, including for many weeks after security forces determined he was not a combatant — as they wanted to use him as a go-between.

One of the Israelis and a released detainee interviewed by CNN said that at night, guards would often send large dogs into the enclosure and throw stun grenades as soldiers rushed in to conduct searches.

“You’d be lying on your belly, your face pressed against the ground. You can’t move, and they’re moving above you,” Dr. Mohammed al-Ran recounted.

The Israeli source said: “It was a special unit of the military police that did the so-called search… But really it was an excuse to hit them. It was a terrifying situation.”

The Israeli sources also said wounded prisoners were held in a separate part of the facility, strapped blindfolded to beds, naked except for diapers in which they had been dressed, and fed through straws.

“If you imagine yourself being unable to move, being unable to see what’s going on, and being completely naked, that leaves you completely exposed,” the source told the network. “I think that’s something that borders on, if not crosses to, psychological torture.”

The anonymous Israelis said treatments went undocumented, seemingly to avoid a paper trail for potential investigations.

“You don’t sign anything, and there is no verification of authority,” a whistleblower said. “It is a paradise for interns because it’s like, you do whatever you want.”

The report said wounds were often neglected and allowed to fester, leading to rot and forcing amputations. A whistleblower who worked as a medic at Sde Teiman said he witnessed an amputation performed on a man due to the injuries suffered on his wrist from repeated handcuffing.

An IDF spokesman denied medical neglect, saying all procedures were carried out with “extreme care.”

Asked about the allegations at a Friday press briefing, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said: “We have seen these reports on alleged prisoner abuse at this prison. It’s deeply concerning, very troubling.”

“We are reaching out to our Israeli counterparts to get more information here about these allegations and our expectation is that we’ll get good answers here… Our expectations are of the highest standard when it comes to the treatment of prisoners,” Kirby added.

The Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a wide-scale military operation in Gaza, arresting thousands of terror suspects.

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