Visiting lawyer describes living hell for Palestinian detainees

A Palestinian lawyer has described conditions at a notorious Israeli detention centre for Gaza prisoners as “more horrific” than Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo following a visit to meet a client held there. 

Lawyer Khaled Mahajneh visited the Sde Teiman military-run camp to see journalist Mohammed Arab, who works for The New Arab’s sister network Al-Araby TV, where countless other prisoners from Gaza are being held with death from torture common.

There he described a living hell, with some of the worst conditions he has witnessed or heard about. When he met Arab, the journalist had been allowed one change of clothing during his 100 day detention and was covered in dirt and pigeon droppings, Mahajneh said.

“I have been visiting political and security detainees and prisoners in Israeli jails for years, including since October 7,” Mahajneh told +972 Magazine.

“I know that the conditions of detention have become much harsher, and that the prisoners are abused on a daily basis. But Sde Teiman was unlike anything I’ve seen or heard before.”

Arab, who was “unrecognisable” after two months in detention, said Palestinian prisoners were kept blindfolded, had to sleep hunched on the floor without bedding and shackled, and only had their iron handcuffs removed once a week during a 60-second shower.

Detainees are not allowed to use a watch during the procedure. If they exceed their one-minute time allotment, they are exposed to wind or sun for hours, forcing many to forego showers to avoid the harrowing punishments.

They are given meagre rations of a small amount of labaneh and a tomato or slice of cucumber, while 100 prisoners are forced to share one toilet roll between them, daily.

Rape against prisoners is also widespread with Arab saying he witnessed six detainees sexually assaulted with a stick after violating harsh prison rules.

Stories of rape and torture against Palestinian prisoners have been commonly reported by survivors at other detention centres, where thousands of Gaza detainees are being held.

Lawyers and rights groups have faced colossal challenges in seeing their clients or improving their conditions, with around 35 detainees dying of “unknown circumstances” at Sde Teiman since 7 October, aka ‘the death camp’.

Even Israeli authorities have acknowledged the horrifying conditions at Sde Teiman, pledging to phase out the use of the military-run camp but the centre still remains open.

Detainees held there are predominantly civilians, not combatants, rights groups say, including journalists such as Arab, health workers, and teachers.

“Arab and the other prisoners in the detention centre call on the international community and the international courts to act to save them,” the lawyer told +972 Magazine.

“It is inconceivable that the whole world talks about the Israeli abductees, and no one talks about the Palestinian prisoners.”

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