U.N. Report Describes Physical Abuse and Dire Conditions in Israeli Detention

Gazans released from Israeli detention described graphic scenes of physical abuse in testimonies gathered by United Nations workers, according to a report released on Tuesday by UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

Palestinian detainees described being made to sit on their knees for hours on end with their hands tied while blindfolded, being deprived of food and water and being urinated on, among other humiliations, the report said. Others described being badly beaten with metal bars or the butts of guns and boots, according to the report, or forced into cages and attacked by dogs.

The New York Times has not interviewed the witnesses who spoke to UNRWA aid workers and could not independently verify their accounts. None of the witnesses were quoted by name. Still, some of the testimonies in the report matched accounts provided to The Times by more than a dozen freed detainees and their relatives in January, who spoke of beatings and harsh interrogations.

Israeli forces have arrested thousands of Gazans during their six-month campaign against Hamas, the Palestinian armed group. The Israeli military says it arrests those suspected of involvement in Hamas and other groups, but women, children and older people have also been detained, according to the UNRWA report.

The Israeli military and the Israeli prime minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the report. But asked about similar accusations of abuse in the past, Israeli officials have said that detainees are held according to the law and that their basic rights are respected.

UNRWA staff gathered testimonies from more than 100 released Gazans arriving at the Kerem Shalom crossing over several months. Palestinian medics would occasionally rush freed prisoners who were injured or ill directly to area hospitals, the report said, adding that they sometimes bore “signs of trauma and ill-treatment.”

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