Palestinian detainees report Israeli beatings, mistreatment as West Bank arrests surge

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RAMALLAH, West Bank – Mr Hamza al-Qawasmi was at home in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron last month when Israeli forces stormed in after midnight and told him he was under arrest.

The 27-year-old coffee seller had taken part in marches against the Gaza war. He had been arrested and detained previously for being a member of the Islamic bloc at Hebron University but he said the treatment this time was the worst.

“They put me in the military jeep. That’s when the assault began,” he told Reuters.

Mr al-Qawasmi said his captors blindfolded and handcuffed him, took him away, accused him of being an Isis member, beat him and at some point removed the blindfold so he could see them point their rifles to his head as they threatened to kill him.

The Israeli military did not respond to requests for comment on Mr al-Qawasmi’s case.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have flared in the West Bank since Palestinian Hamas gunmen rampaged into southern Israel on Oct 7 and Israel launched a retaliatory assault on blockaded Gaza, killing more than 12,000 people, according to a Palestinian Health Ministry tally in the Hamas-run enclave.

While Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians have been in focus the last six weeks, the Israeli-occupied West Bank – home to 3 million Palestinians who live among more than half a million Jewish settlers – has been seething for more than 18 months, drawing growing international concern as violence has escalated.

Palestinian detainees and officials say Israel has conducted mass arrests in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and that prisoners were increasingly facing physical assaults and humiliating treatment in Israeli detention facilities.

“Israel today is in the mood of revenge,” Ramallah-based Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told Reuters.

Amnesty International said in a Nov 8 statement that Israel had dramatically increased its use of administrative detention, a form of incarceration without charge or trial.

The Israeli military has said it operates in the West Bank against suspects involved in militant activity. On Friday, it said most of the 1,750 Palestinians it had caught there in recent weeks were associated with Hamas.

A statement by the Israel Prison Service said that “as part of the war effort” it was imposing tougher imprisonment conditions for Palestinian political prisoners.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society, representing prisoners held by Israel, said al-Qawasmi was one of more than 2,700 Palestinians arrested in the West Bank since the Oct 7 Hamas attacks in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed and about 240 people were taken hostage.

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