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War on Gaza: The ordeal of two Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces

A girl, 10, and her brother, six, were detained on Israel’s so-called ‘safe corridor’. They were interrogated about Hamas 
Children play on the roof of a building in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on 21 December 2023 (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Children play on the roof of a building in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on 21 December 2023 (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
By Aseel Mousa in Gaza, occupied Palestine

Surrounded by other detained children put in a container, Dana was bemused by the Israeli soldier’s questions. 

“They asked us strange things about Hamas and the location of Israeli prisoners,” said the 10-year-old from Gaza, recounting her interrogation by Israeli soldiers last month. 

“I told them I had no information."

The young Palestinian girl was detained along with her six-year-old brother Ammar as they fled to south Gaza on the Israeli-designated “safe corridor” in November. 

The pair were walking on Salah al-Din Road with their mother Sarah and Karim, their father Mohammed’s friend, when soldiers fired two shots in the air and ordered everyone to lie on the ground. 

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“The young man wearing a black hat and a white T-shirt, come,” said one of the soldiers, referring to Karim, according to Mohammed.

The worried father was in southern Gaza at the time, anxiously waiting to be reunited with his wife and children. He recounted his children’s ordeal to Middle East Eye giving only first names for safety concerns.

“The occupation soldiers subjected Karim to severe beatings and detained him for 12 hours, subjecting him to insults and interrogation, even stripping him naked,” Mohammed said. 

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Meanwhile, Dana and Ammar were separated from their mother and put in a military vehicle. 

“I was very terrified, and Ammar was crying intensely,” Dana told MEE.

After a one-hour ride, they arrived at an undisclosed location, where they were put with other children in a container.  

“I was shocked to see other children, including infants. All the children were terrified,” she added. 

"There were six large screens of very high quality, and they kept asking me about my mother and father. They asked me to watch a video recorded when we were fleeing and made me point to my mother. I don't know why they asked me to do that.

"What hurt me the most and broke my heart was the fear and crying of Ammar."

'My soul was leaving me'

Back on Salah al-Din Road, Sarah was in shock. 

“I was on the verge of losing my sanity. I didn't know how to react,” the children’s mother told MEE.

“It felt like my soul was leaving me."

When Mohammed learned about what happened, he immediately got on the phone with the International Committee of the Red Cross, seeking their help. 

The father of eight had been forced to head to southern Gaza against his will earlier in the war. 

Originally from the northern Gaza Strip, the family took shelter in the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children in Gaza City in the early days of the Israeli offensive. 

One family's treacherous journey through Gaza's 'safe corridor'
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But after weeks of living in poor conditions with little food and water, his sister's family decided to flee south. 

Mohammed took them to the “safe corridor”, intending to return to his family afterward. 

But a soldier spotted him on the road and was forced to head south at gunpoint, he said. 

From his place of refuge in Deir al-Balah, he worked to get his wife and youngest two children to join him. 

After 27 hours of chasing after the Red Cross, he was finally told Dana and Ammar would be released and reunited with their parents. 

“[Their arrest] was the most challenging thing their mother and I had ever faced,” he told MEE. 

The so-called “safe corridor”, established by invading Israeli troops in Gaza in October, is used by Palestinians forced to leave northern areas of the strip to the south.

However, scores of eyewitnesses and rights groups say the corridor is anything but safe, accusing Israeli forces of using it to kill, detain, and abuse Palestinians. 

Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained while taking the journey since the start of the war, including doctors, women and children.

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