Free the Palestinian hostages!

Since 7 October, the Zionist state’s brutal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza has continued with the backing of imperialist powers. In addition to ruthless bombardment, starvation and targeted assassinations, Israeli state forces have also kidnapped and imprisoned residents of Gaza it claims are linked to the armed resistance movement.

Prisoners from Gaza are not given any access to legal advice or representation. As of 1 March, some 793 Palestinians captured in Gaza are being held in Israeli prisons under Israel’s Unlawful Combatant Law, a form of administrative detention which allows prisoners to be held for up to 75 days without any judicial review. In addition, they can be denied access to legal advice for up to 180 days.

According to reports from Haaretz and Palestinian legal organisation Addameer, an unknown number of prisoners from Gaza are held in at least two military camps operated by occupation forces. Sde Teman military camp is located to the east of Gaza and has been labelled a ‘new Guantanamo’. Anatot military camp, is located near Jerusalem. Both camps have been used to hold Palestinians since 8 October 2023, first to intern Palestinians working in the Israeli economy and then to intern Palestinian men, women and children captured in Gaza. The number of prisoners in the camps is thought to be in the hundreds, if not thousands. The International Committee of the Red Cross and lawyers have been denied access to Sde Teman. Children as young as six and elderly people as old as 82 have been interned and later released.

Internment as propaganda

In December 2023, videos emerged of Palestinian detainees stripped, blindfolded, and bound in locations across Gaza. In Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza, footage emerged of at least 100 Palestinian men who were stripped and forced to sit on the street with their hands on their heads, staring at the ground, in formation. Israeli occupation forces claimed they were captured surrendered ‘terror suspects’. This was proven to be false by relatives of some of the men seen; the Committee to Protect Journalists identified one of the men as Palestinian journalist Diaa Al-Kahlout; several people who recognised men in the video came forward and refuted claims they were linked to any sort of armed resistance. Hamas itself released a statement that these were unarmed civilians, unconnected to the resistance movement.

Despite widespread condemnation of these sadistic scenes, the Zionist state and its apologists used the images to push the narrative that the resistance is close to being defeated and militants are surrendering en masse. On 6 January 2024, the Zionist military claimed it had dismantled Hamas’ ‘military framework’ in northern Gaza. In early February, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant claimed Hamas had been ‘dismantled’ in Khan Younis. Fresh waves of ambushes in northern Gaza and Khan Younis, along with continued rocket attacks have shown this narrative to be fantasy.

Enforced disappearances and summary executions

In many of the videos released, Gazan prisoners are shown being loaded into military trucks and driven to unknown locations. The families of these detainees have not been given any information as to where they were taken, or whether they are even alive. Some detainees have simply been summarily executed in unknown locations. One released detainee says that they witnessed Israeli Defence Force (IDF) personnel shoot dead five defenceless detainees.

Systematic torture and murder

In the military camps, torture and degrading treatment has been systematic. According to testimonies given by released detainees to NGOs such as UNRWA and Euro-Med, Palestinian prisoners from Gaza have been treated as ‘non-human animals’. Prisoners are forced into open-air iron cages in the cold; forced to sleep on the floor, sometimes naked; forced to listen to music so loud their ears bleed; during ‘interrogations’, subjected to electric shock torture and beatings, and burned with cigarettes; forced into stress positions; left handcuffed and blindfolded for days at a time or subjected to sexual assaults.

At least 27 prisoners have been slowly tortured to death in these camps alone since 7 October, either due to the harsh conditions, medical neglect or during ‘interrogation’. Their names are not known. The true number of deaths is unknown because the IDF does not announce deaths in custody.

This barbaric treatment of Palestinians kidnapped from Gaza is just another extension of the Zionist state’s collective punishment and terror against the people of Palestine. This has multiple aims. Firstly, to extract intelligence via torture in order to help with Israel’s disastrous war effort. Secondly, to project an image that Israel is winning ‘the war against Hamas’ by exhibiting captured civilians with the claim that they are militants. Thirdly, it is designed to terrorise the Palestinians of Gaza to the extent that the armed resistance factions lose their popular support. Despite the vicious and sustained level of the repression, the Zionist state is failing on all these fronts.

Free all Palestinian prisoners! Sanctions now!
Kotsai Sigauke