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War on Gaza: Israel imprisoned 82-year-old Palestinian woman as 'unlawful combatant'

Fahamiya Khalidi, who has dementia, was arrested inside a school in Gaza and then taken to Damon prison where she was refused a lawyer
Israeli army vehicles outside the Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank (AFP)

The Israeli army arrested and imprisoned an 82-year-old Palestinian woman in Gaza under a law aimed at detaining unlawful combatants, Haaretz reported. 

According to the report, Fahamiya Khalidi, who suffers from Alzheimer's, was sheltering at a school in Gaza after she was forcibly displaced due to the ongoing conflict.

In December, she was arrested and imprisoned under the Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law, and taken to Israel’s Damon Prison. She was released on 19 January.

Khalidi’s caregiver, who had to stay with her at all times because her children live abroad, was also arrested and remains in custody. 

Many of the details regarding Khalidi’s arrest and detention remain unknown, because she had a difficult time reconstructing and recalling what has happened to her since her release.

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Reports state that Khalidi was sometimes held in handcuffs, and was in a wheelchair due to the difficulty she faced walking.

She was not the only elderly and disabled person held in Israeli custody, Haaretz reported, citing various other reports.

Following her release, a reporter from Falastin TV interviewed Khalidi and alongside another detained woman, who said they were questioned “for ten minutes for several days,” in a centre described as being “in the mountains”.

The Israel Prison Service responded to the questions surrounding Khalidi’s arrest, saying that “the prisoner was received at the prison service on December 10, 2023. She was held for 30 days until her release. During that period, she was held in accordance with the law."

Arbitrary imprisonments 

According to Israel Prison Service data, as of the end of December, 661 individuals who had been declared unlawful combatants were imprisoned in its facilities. The figure includes 10 teenage boys, one teenage girl and 42 adult women. 

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The prison service did not respond to Haaretz's query on whether Khalidi had been examined by a doctor.

They also did not respond to a query about the justification for designating Khalidi as an unlawful combatant.

Since Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza in late October, its forces have detained hundreds of civilians from their homes or while they were fleeing fighting through "safe corridors".

Some have been released after interrogation but many have been taken to undisclosed locations, including mothers who were separated from their babies.

The Palestinian Authority's Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs on Sunday confirmed at least 142 females - including elderly women and infants - are currently held in Israeli jails. 

In a joint statement with the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, the commission warned that "horrific crimes" have been committed against the female prisoners. 

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