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Case Analysis 28 April, 2024

Systematic Revenge: Israel’s “Administrative Detention” Policy Since 7 October

Nizar Ayoub

Lawyer active in defending human rights, specializing in IHL and international human rights law. He earned his PhD in International Law from the Institute of State and Law, Moscow (1998) and a Master’s degree in Conflict Management and Mediation from Tel Aviv University (2019). He worked as a lawyer and legal researcher at rights group Al-Haq in Ramallah from 2000-2013 and has written many studies on the system of settler colonialism and apartheid in historic Palestine and the legal status of the Arab territories occupied since 1967 (Palestine and the Golan), particularly Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and the legal status of the city and its Palestinian residents. He has also published many studies on the conflict in Syria, including: “The Armed Conflict in Syria and Ways to Hold Perpetrators of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Accountable” (al-Nizāʿ al-musallaḥ fī Sūriyā wa subul muḥāsabat murtakibī jaraʾim al-ḥarb wa-l-jaraʾim ḍidd al-insāniyyah), “International Humanitarian Interventions in Syria and the Responsibility to Protect” (al-Tadākhkhul al-duwalī al-insānī fī Sūriyā wa-masʾūlīyat al-ḥimāyah) and “Transitional Justice or Transitional Policy? Foundations of Fransitional Justice in Syria” (ʿAdāla intiqālīyah am sīyasah intiqālīyah? Usūs al-ʿadālah al-intiqālīyah fī Sūriyā).

Israel’s military and security services stepped up a long-running campaign of arrests in the occupied Palestinian territories after launching a war on the Gaza Strip on 7 October. Between that date and 31 March this year, approximately 7,845 Palestinian men, women and children were arrested. This was accompanied by violent incursions, interrogations and summary executions; Israeli forces have severely beaten, abused and terrorised detainees and their family members, vandalised and demolished homes, and confiscated money and vehicles.

acrobat Icon The violence and ill-treatment inflicted on Palestinian detainees and the appalling conditions in which they are held has led to dozens of them dying at prisons and in camps, although the exact circumstances of these deaths remain unclear. Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported the deaths of 27 detainees from the Gaza Strip being held at the Sde Teman army camp between the Israeli city of Beersheba and Gaza, the Anatot camp northeast of Jerusalem, or during interrogation at other facilities inside Israel. The Israeli army has not released information on how they died, but has said some had been injured in fighting while others were suffering from pre-existing medical conditions when they were detained.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are also subject to a policy of abuse and oppression, with the aim of intimidating and silencing them. Since 7 October, they have faced a concerted campaign of silencing and repression by the Israeli security services, including arbitrary arrests and systematic vilification for simple acts such as expressing opinions in the war on the Gaza Strip, condemning Israel’s attacks on innocent civilians, expressing sympathy with the people of Gaza, speaking about collective punishment and war crimes, or spreading news about what is happening in the territory. The authorities accuse anyone who expresses an opinion, whether through social media or by participating in protests, of violating Israeli laws, supporting “terrorist” organisations and inciting terrorism.

This paper reviews the policies of abuse and revenge against Palestinian prisoners and detainees at Israeli prisons and detention centres, both civil and military, in light of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and international human rights standards. Since the start of Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, Palestinians detainees have faced shocking and inhumane conditions in detention, as well as severe violence and abuse from the Israeli security services and prison guards.