Israeli forces rounded up, stripped, and bound Palestinian civilians in an open field of a stadium in Gaza, sparking outrage and condemnation.
Israeli forces rounded up dozens of Palestinians in an open field of a stadium in Gaza on Monday, stripping them and tying their hands behind their backs, according to photos and video footage shared on local media.
Reports said Israeli forces had abused the residents, including men, children and the elderly, before gathering them in the open field.
Video footage showed Israeli soldiers, accompanied by tanks, pointing their guns at the detained Palestinians who could be seen entering the field in a line with their hands up in the air before sitting down in designated areas.
The incident took place at the Al-Yarmouk Stadium in the northern Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces have been conducting a ground operation since November 20, as part of their ongoing war against Hamas and other militant groups in the enclave.
The war, which began on October 7 when Hamas launched a massive rocket attack on Israel, killing more than 300 civilians, has killed more than 7,000 Palestinians and 150 Israelis, and caused widespread destruction and suffering in Gaza, as well as in Israel and the West Bank.
The Israeli military said that the detainees were “suspected of being involved in terrorist activities” and that they were “treated according to protocol” and were given enough food and water. The military also said that it warned civilians to evacuate the area before the operation, using phone calls, text messages, and leaflets.
However, Palestinian human rights groups and witnesses said that the Israeli forces violated the laws of war and human dignity, and that the detainees were subjected to humiliation, intimidation, and violence.
“They treated us like animals, they stripped us, they beat us, they insulted us,” said Ahmad Abu Salim, a 40-year-old farmer who was arrested along with his two sons, aged 15 and 17. He said that he received a phone call from the Israeli military on Monday morning, telling him to leave his house within 10 minutes. He said that he and his sons grabbed some clothes and ran to the stadium, where they hoped to find shelter. But as they arrived, he said that they were stopped by Israeli soldiers, who ordered them to take off their clothes and to lie down on the ground.
“They wrote numbers on our hands, they tied our hands with plastic cuffs, they blindfolded us with cloth. They put us in trucks and took us to the field. They made us sit there for hours, without food, without water, without toilets. They pointed their guns at us and threatened to shoot us if we moved or talked,” he said.
Abu Salim said that he and his sons were released on Tuesday morning, after being interrogated by Israeli intelligence officers. He said that he did not know why they were arrested, and that he had nothing to do with Hamas or any other group. He said that he was a simple farmer who wanted to live in peace and dignity.
“I don’t understand why they did this to us. What did we do to deserve this? How can they treat us like this?” he said.
PCHR Condemned Israel’s Actions
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a Gaza-based NGO, condemned the Israeli actions as “a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the collective punishment, the ill-treatment, and the humiliation of protected persons, such as civilians, prisoners, and the wounded”. The PCHR also called on the international community, especially the UN, to intervene and stop the Israeli aggression and violations in Gaza, and to hold the Israeli perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
The PCHR also said that the Israeli forces have detained hundreds of Palestinians across the northern Gaza Strip, separating families and forcing men to strip to their underwear before trucking some to an undisclosed location. The PCHR said that it documented numerous cases of Israeli soldiers raiding Palestinian homes and executing civilians without any justification or resistance. The PCHR said that many Palestinians died as a result of the Israeli bombardment and shelling of residential areas, hospitals, and shelters, or due to the lack of medical care and supplies caused by the Israeli siege and blockade of Gaza.
The PCHR said that the Israeli forces have designated a “safe zone” in the southern coastal area of Gaza, where they have advised civilians to seek refuge from the fighting. However, the PCHR said that the safe zone is “neither safe nor accessible”, as it is too small, too crowded, and too exposed to the Israeli attacks. The PCHR also said that the safe zone is inaccessible for many people, especially those who live in the northern and eastern parts of Gaza, where the Israeli ground forces have advanced and cut off the main roads and crossings. The PCHR said that many people who tried to reach the safe zone have been killed or injured by the Israeli fire, or have been turned back by the Israeli checkpoints.
The PCHR called on the Israeli forces to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution in their military operations, and to ensure the protection and safety of civilians and civilian objects. The PCHR also called on the Israeli forces to allow the free and safe passage and access of humanitarian workers and aid convoys, and to expand and secure the safe zone for the displaced people.
The PCHR also called on the international community to exert pressure and influence on the parties to the conflict, and to support the efforts to achieve an immediate and lasting ceasefire, and a political solution to the crisis.