On November 11, an Israeli airstrike destroyed Khaled’s home in Gaza City, killing 10 people, including his sister and brother.
Khaled, who asked that his name be changed, suffered minor injuries, including burns.
Three days later, he decided to evacuate to the south, where some of his siblings and parents were already residing, after evacuating earlier. Although he was injured, he had to walk about 10 km with tens of thousands of people.
After hours of arduous walking, he reached an Israeli military checkpoint at noon. But instead of going through with it, he was arrested without explanation.
“They stripped me naked and left me with underwear. Then they blindfolded me and handcuffed my hands with plastic ties,” he told Middle East Eye.
“At 2 a.m., they took me to Sderot prison, located near the border with Gaza. There were 15 of us. Each of us was guided by two soldiers. They beat us and slapped us brutally with every move.
Two of the detainees had broken legs, placed in a cast, and another had a broken hand. The soldiers, Khaled said, intentionally focused their blows on their wounds.
“I was humiliated, beaten and tortured for every word I said”
– Khaled, former inmate
“They brutally interrogated me and kept asking me questions about Hamas and the people who crossed the border into Israeli villages on October 7,” he said, referring to the attack. in southern Israel which left at least 1,200 dead and hundreds of people taken hostage in Gaza.
“I was humiliated, beaten and tortured with every word I said. They forced me to open my Facebook account and left us in our underwear while it was freezing. They also put us in the rain. It was so hard.”
Khaled, 28, spent three grueling days in Sderot prison, feeling like each day passes like a year.
He was then transferred to Ofer Prison in Jerusalem, where conditions were relatively better.
“They provided us with food, clothing, medicine and a doctor. We were not tortured there,” he said.
Numerous testimonies have been collected by rights groups from Palestinians detained after being forced to evacuate northern Gaza, which was ruined by the weeks-long Israeli bombing campaign.
Euro-Med Monitor said Israel was subjecting Palestinians in Gaza to “intentional humiliation” as they fled south.
After nine days of detention, Khaled said he and the other detainees were released in “humiliating” conditions.
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“They handcuffed us brutally and in a very painful way and blindfolded us. The road to the Karam Abu Salem crossing lasted three hours during which we were tortured. When we reached the crossing, they ordered us to queue, one by one,” Khaled said.
“They removed the blindfold and plastic ties from our hands and hit us on the back with their military boots.
“We fell to the ground and they beat us. Then a soldier yelled at us to get up and told us to go home in Hebrew.
“They were shooting on the ground next to us, so we started running towards the Palestinian side.
“We ran for three or four kilometers. We were so exhausted when we reached the crossing.”
The Israeli army confiscated all of their belongings during their detention, leaving them unable to contact their families or even take a taxi because they had no money.
Eventually, Khaled borrowed a stranger’s phone to call his brother who paid the taxi fare for Khaled.
On November 23, he was reunited with his father, mother and some brothers and sisters for the first time since his arrest.
Besides the tragic loss of his sister and brother, he still suffers physical symptoms and struggles with haunting nightmares resulting from the torture he suffered.