– Shayma S
Dec. 8: After the resumption of the Israeli onslaught post the ceasefire, horrifying images have emerged from Palestine of men rounded up, stripped, and kneeling on the ground surrounded by Israeli soldiers. According to online footage widely circulated on Friday, at least 100 Palestinian men detained by Israeli forces have been stripped to their underwear, blindfolded and made to kneel on a street in northern Gaza. The footage has been verified by major news outlets and appears to be of Beit Lahia.
Beit Lahia or Beit Lahiya is a city in the Gaza Strip, north of Jabalia, in the North Gaza region of Palestine. Most recently, Israeli forces, tanks and bulldozers have rolled into Khan Younis, Gaza’s second largest city. Khan Younis was the location towards which the IDF had pushed Gazans to flee in the first place.
At least 17,487 Palestinians have been killed in the recent onslaught, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. When questioned about the video, a spokesman for the Israeli government told the BBC the men detained were all of military age and had been “discovered in areas that civilians were supposed to have evacuated weeks ago”.
Israel news outlets have been claiming that they are surrendered Hamas fighters, while Palestinians on X and other social media platforms have strongly countered the claim.
According to Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, who was reporting from occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, the images echoed the history of the region, where stripped men are taken to unknown locations. Activists on social media platforms compared the images which explicitly reveal the use of sexual and bodily humiliation, denigration and torture to past events in Srebrenica, Sri Lanka at the height of the Sinhalese army’s onslaught on Tamil residents, and the World War II.
People also recalled how similar images had emerged from Abu Ghraib. The Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news outlet, also known as The New Arab, said its correspondent Diaa al-Kahlout was among those detained and had been taken to an unknown location.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was alarmed by reports of Al-Kahlout’s arrest and called for his release. Izzat al-Risheq, a Hamas official said in a statement that “Stripping them of their clothes in a humiliating manner is a blatant Zionist crime to take revenge on our defenceless civilians as a result of the blows suffered by its soldiers and officers at the hands of Palestinian resistance men.”
Another man, Hani al-Madhoun, while speaking to CNN identified his relatives Aboud (his cousin) and Mahmoud (his brother) in the video. Mahmoud is a shopkeeper while Aboud works in construction.
Some outlets have also identified some of the men as prominent journalists of Gaza. Eylon Levy, an Israeli spokeperson has claimed that “We’re talking about military age men who were discovered in areas that civilians were supposed to have evacuated weeks ago.”
However, countering this claim a man who wished to be unnamed told BBC Arabic that IDF soldiers entered the area and used megaphones to order the men from their homes and UN relief agency (UNRWA) schools, while telling the women of the households to go to a nearby hospital.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said the men were “arbitrarily arrested” in the northern Gaza Strip after Israeli forces surrounded two shelters in the town of Beit Lahiya for days, adding that they were taken from the Khalifa bin Zayed and New Aleppo schools, both of which are affiliated with the UNRWA.
Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, also expressed his deep concern on Thursday over the mass arrests.
Writer Shailaja Patel pointed out that while it was well-meaning for many outlets to rush to say that the men were not Hamas due to the fact that they appeared to be middle-aged men and not fighters, it would be equally inhumane to treat Hamas members in this way.