The Israeli military has detained hundreds of Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip, leading to the separation of families and compelling men to strip down to their underwear. Subsequently, some were transported to a detention camp on the beach, where they endured hours, and in some instances, days, facing hunger and cold. This information comes from human rights activists, distressed relatives, and detainees who have been released.
Individuals detained in locations such as Beit Lahiya, Jabaliya’s urban refugee camp, and neighborhoods in Gaza City reported being bound, blindfolded, and loaded into trucks. Some stated that they were taken to an undisclosed camp, nearly naked and with limited access to water.
“Ibrahim Lubbad, a 30-year-old computer engineer arrested in Beit Lahiya on Dec. 7 with a dozen other family members and held overnight, expressed, ‘We were treated like cattle, they even wrote numbers on our hands.’ We could feel their hatred,” Lubbad added.
Experts suggest that these roundups reveal a tactic in Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza. The military aims to consolidate control in evacuated northern areas and gather intelligence about Hamas operations, particularly after the group’s deadly attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, which resulted in the killing of about 1,200 people and the abduction of over 240 individuals.
“This is already helping us, and it will be crucial for the next stage of the war,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “That’s the stage where we clean areas from all the remnants of Hamas.”
In response to questions about alleged mistreatment, the Israeli military said that detainees were “treated according to protocol” and were given enough food and water. The army spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said this week that arrests took place in two Hamas strongholds in northern Gaza and that detainees were told to strip to make sure they didn’t conceal explosives.
Hagari said the men are questioned and then told to dress, and that in cases where this didn’t happen, the military would ensure it doesn’t occur again. Those believed to have ties to Hamas are taken away for further interrogation, and dozens of Hamas members have been arrested so far, he said.
The others are released and told to head south, where Israel has told people to seek refuge, Hagari said.
Photos and video showing Palestinian men kneeling in the streets, heads bowed and hands bound behind their backs, sparked outrage after spreading on social media. U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Monday said the United States “found those images deeply disturbing” and was seeking more information.