Skip to main content

Israel-Palestine war: Palestinians forced to flee northern Gaza abused by Israeli forces

A former detainee recounts the humiliation and 'torture' he experienced after members of his family were killed in an air strike
A Palestinian pushes a man in a wheelchair as people fleeing north Gaza move southward during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, near Gaza City, 27 November 2023 (Reuters)

On 11 November, an Israeli air strike destroyed Khaled's home in Gaza City, killing 10 people, including his sister and brother.

Khaled, who asked for his name to be changed, sustained minor injuries, including burns.

Three days later, he decided to evacuate to the south, where some of his siblings and parents were already staying, after evacuating earlier. Although he was wounded, he had to walk around 10km on foot along with tens of thousands of people.

After hours of painful walking, he reached an Israeli military checkpoint at noon. But instead of passing through, he was detained without explanation.

"They stripped me of my clothes and left me with underwear. Then they blindfolded me and handcuffed my hands with plastic restraints," he told Middle East Eye.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


"At 2 am, they took me to Sderot prison located near the Gaza border. There were 15 of us. Each of us was guided by two soldiers. They were beating and slapping us brutally with every move."

Two of the people detainees had broken legs, set in casts, and another had a broken hand. The soldiers, Khaled said, intentionally focused their beating on their wounds.

'I was humiliated, beaten, and tortured with every word I said'

- Khaled, former detainee

"They brutally interrogated me and kept asking me about Hamas and the people who crossed into Israeli villages on 7 October," he explained, referring to the attack in southern Israel that left at least 1,200 people dead and hundreds taken hostage in Gaza.

“I was humiliated, beaten, and tortured with every word I said. They forced me to open my Facebook account and left us in our underwear although it was freezing. They also put us under the rain. It was so harsh."

Khaled, 28, spent three gruelling days in Sderot prison, feeling each day pass like a year.

He was then transferred to Ofer prison in Jerusalem where the conditions were relatively better.

“They provided us with food, clothes, medicine and a doctor. We weren’t tortured there," he recounted.

Humiliating conditions

There have been a number of testimonies collected by rights groups of Palestinians being detained after being forced to evacuate northern Gaza, which has been left ruined by Israel's weeks-long bombing campaign.

Euro-Med Monitor said Israel was subjecting Palestinians in Gaza to "intentional humiliation" as they fled south.

After nine days in detention, Khaled said he and the other detainees were released under "humiliating" conditions.

The Dupes: A timeless story of Palestinians' pain and betrayal
Read More »

“They handcuffed us brutally and in a very painful way and blindfolded us. The road to Karam Abu Salem crossing took three hours during which we were tortured. When we reached the crossing, they ordered us to stand in a line, one by one," said Khaled.

“They removed the blindfold and the plastic restraints from our hands and hit us on our backs with their military boots.

"We fell on the ground, and they beat us. Then a soldier shouted at us to stand up and told us to go home in Hebrew.

"They were shooting next to us on the ground so we started running toward the Palestinian side.

"We ran for three or four kilometres. We were so exhausted when we reached the crossing."

The Israeli army confiscated all their belongings during the detention, leaving them unable to contact their families or even take a taxi, as they had no money.

Eventually, Khaled borrowed a stranger’s phone to call his brother who paid the taxi fare for Khaled.

On 23 November, he was reunited with his father, mother and a few siblings for the first time since his arrest.

Beside the tragic loss of his sister and brother, he is still suffering from physical symptoms and grappling with haunting nightmares stemming from the torture he was subjected to.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.