Israel to phase out use of military detention camp for Palestinians

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Israel is phasing out the use of a military-run detention camp for Palestinians captured during the Gaza war where rights groups say there has been abuse of inmates, justice officials said on Wednesday.

State attorneys told the Supreme Court that inmates held at the Sde Teiman site, which was opened after Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel that sparked the war in Gaza, would be gradually transported to permanent holding facilities.

The transfers have started and most prisoners would be relocated within a couple of weeks. This would allow conditions to improve in the meantime, they said.

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The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which filed a petition for the closure of the Sde Teiman site, was one of a number of groups demanding the closure of the detention facility at the former army base.

State attorney Aner Helman, responding to the ACRI petition, told the court that 700 inmates had already been moved to Ofer, a military stockade in the West Bank. Another 500 were slated to be transferred in the coming weeks, leaving 200 at Sde Teiman whose future was yet to be decided.

In a statement in April, ACRI said detainees released from the site described being held on their knees in crowded cages, handcuffed at all hours of the day, blindfolded and subjected to a variety of humiliating treatment in blatant violation of legal obligations towards detainees.

Israel has come under increasing international pressure over its treatment of thousands of Palestinians detained in Gaza and the occupied West Bank since the start of the war.

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UNRWA, the main United Nations relief agency for the Palestinians, said in a report from April that it had received numerous reports from detainees of ill-treatment, including beatings, intimidation and harassment.

The Israeli military has opened investigations into allegations of abuse and into reports that as many as 27 prisoners have died in detention.

“The investigations are still ongoing, and as such we will not be commenting further at this point,” a military spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, said there had been “horrific testimony” from former detainees describing abuse at Sde Teiman and other sites and demanded an international inquiry.

“Israel should not investigate itself. An impartial international body should handle the investigation, with experts, judges, and specialists conducting it,” he said.

Israel’s military is also investigating the deaths of Palestinians captured during the Gaza war.

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