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Israel-Palestine war: Freed Palestinian children say fellow prisoners were 'tortured to death'

At least five Palestinian prisoners reported dead from abuse in Israeli jails, according to testimony of freed teens
Osama Marmash, 16, speaking to Al Jazeera after he was released from Megiddo prison on Sunday 26 November 2023 (Screengrab)
By Mosab Shawer in Hebron, occupied Palestine

Palestinian children freed from Israeli jails as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel said they were subjected to torture in captivity and that several fellow detainees were beaten to death.

The teens are among 39 Palestinians freed from Israeli detention on Sunday, in the third prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas, while the latter released 13 Israelis held in Gaza.

The exchange took place for the third straight day amid a temporary four-day truce in Gaza, the first such halt of fighting since the hostilities began on 7 October. 

Khalil Mohamed Badr al-Zamaira, 18, was among those released. He was 16 when he was detained by Israeli forces. 

He said Palestinian prisoners are being mistreated and beaten in prison, and there is no different treatment for children.

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"They didn't differentiate between old and young," he told Middle East Eye.

"Two teens were transferred from Ofer prison with broken ribs. They were unable to move."

Likewise, Omar al-Atshan, a freed Palestinian teen, said he was mistreated and tortured in Naqab prison where he had been held prior to his release. 

"The mistreatment was indescribable," he told Al Jazeera during a live coverage of the arrival of released prisoners in the occupied West Bank on Sunday. 

He said that they were routinely beaten and humiliated in prison, and that water and food were scarce. 

During their release, Israeli soldiers ordered them to lower their heads, and then beat them, he said.

"Our happiness is not complete because there are other captives still in detention," he said, adding that one captive, which he identified as Thaer Abu Assab, was beaten to death in custody.

 Omar al-Atshan speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday 

"He was subjected to too much beating. We cried for help, but doctors arrived after an hour and a half after he was already dead from torture.

"He was tortured because of a question; he asked the warden whether there was a truce. Then he got beaten to death."

Four prisoners tortured to death in Megiddo

Another freed child, Osama Marmash, also gave a similar testimony to Al Jazeera.

The 16 year old was held in Megiddo prison before his release. He told Al Jazeera that four Palestinian captives were tortured to death in Megiddo.

Marmash said he sustained wounds to his foot and back because of beating.

'My prison clothes were white but then turned red from blood stains'

- Osama Marmash, released Palestinian teen

"My prison clothes were white but then turned red from blood stains," he said.

The food was very little, he said, and was often "inedible". 

He added that they were mistreated on their journey to the West Bank.

"The road was difficult. They turned off the air conditioner on the bus. We were suffocating," he said.

The truce between Hamas and Israel is supposed to see around 150 Palestinian women and children prisoners and 50 Israelis held in Gaza be released over a period of four days.

Hamas, for its part, released 13 Israeli prisoners, including nine children, as well as four foreign nationals - three Thais and one Israeli-Russian.

US President Joe Biden said that that a four-year-old Israeli-American girl whose parents were killed on 7 October was also freed.

Hamas said in a statement that the Israeli-Russian dual national was released "in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts and in recognition of Russia’s position in support of Palestine".

The Russian is the first male prisoner to be released by Hamas in the truce deal.

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