On November 16, Feyrouz Salameh was surprised by the invasion of heavily armed Israeli forces into her home in the town of Birzeit, north of Ramallah. At that time, Feyrouz was arrested after being tied up and having her eyes blindfolded, and her entire house was vandalized.
Feyrouz was alone at that moment, and she was not allowed to call her family, friends, or even a lawyer. She was forcibly taken to a military vehicle and placed on the vehicle’s floor surrounded by soldiers until she reached the investigation center.
Feyrouz told Daraj that she was surprised by the number of soldiers who invaded her home and the brutal way they destroyed the door of the house. They remained ready with their weapons for more than half an hour while she stood in the middle of the room, maintaining her silence and calmness in an attempt to protect herself from gunfire or assault.
Israeli soldiers use the pretext of “war” to act violently from the moment of arrest until reaching the cell, using various pretexts to raid homes, such as “funding Hamas,” “supporting terrorism,” “celebrating terrorism,” and other ready-made charges.
The toll of arrests has risen after October 7 to more than 3760 people, and prisons have turned into centers of physical and psychological torture for detainees. The routine invasion of sections and rooms by prison administration, supporting soldiers, and special units has become a daily occurrence, where detainees are provoked, blackmailed, and brutally beaten, left lying on the floor in their rooms without any medical treatment or interventions.
The Steps of Humiliation and Psychological Warfare
The steps of detention can be summarized as follows: interrogation, then returning the detained to the cell, followed by a transfer from a cell on a lower floor to another on the upper floor near the interrogation rooms. These practices fall within the framework of psychological warfare against the detainees.
The cell is a small room with only one blanket, and the food is meager. The prison guards deliberately avoid answering any questions or provide incorrect answers as a form of pressure and mockery. Feyrouz experienced these conditions throughout the interrogation period, confirming that psychological warfare is no less dangerous than the physical torture that detainees may face.
In the unknown state left in Israeli prisons, Feyrouz said: “We don’t know the time, we don’t know the days, and we are prohibited from meeting with lawyers. We are left in small rooms with a bed, a toilet, and a sink in the same cramped space.”
“When the guards took me bound and blindfolded from the cell to the interrogation room, I could hear the screams of prisoners in other rooms,” added Feyrouz.
According to Feyrouz, the recent goal of arrests and the violence practiced on detainees is not physical elimination but rather the “breaking of the spirit and self,” pointing to the harsh interrogation conditions that Gaza workers face by prison authorities.
She mentioned that she did not know the date of her release because she was isolated from the world since her arrest. She thought she would be transferred to Damoun Prison when prison authorities summoned her, but when she saw other detainees, she knew they would release her. Her name appeared in the fifth batch of exchange deals executed on November 28 of last year.
It is worth noting that Feyrouz Salameh is a graduate student at Birzeit University, originally from the town of Anata north of occupied Jerusalem. She is working on completing her master’s thesis titled “Palestinian Border Villages: Many Arabs, Lower Prices.”
“Extensive Retaliatory Operation”
In an interview with Daraj, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs Authority, Qadura Fares, said that “the matter goes beyond mere violations; these are crimes committed against the Palestinian people within the framework of a comprehensive and extensive retaliatory operation taking various forms, reaching its peak in what the Gaza Strip is subjected to.”
Fares believes that Israel considers Palestinian prisoners as “literal hostages.” They are arrested without justification or charges, indicating that Israel’s inclination is to inflict the maximum harm possible on the Palestinian people after the events of October 7th, behaving more like “gang behavior.” He added that “the world’s silence has given Israel a window of time to commit these crimes.”
Fares pointed out that adopting the policy of starvation against the detainees has led to a noticeable decrease in their weights due to poor nutrition, coinciding with the confiscation of their clothes and the lack of adequate coverings, especially with the onset of winter.
He stated that depriving detainees of medical treatment is also considered a “war crime” because “the law requires providing proper food, a healthy environment, and medicines, and these requirements are not provided by the prison administration, so they commit multiple crimes simultaneously.”
Fares mentioned that the Prisoners Authority recently learned of approximately 142 new female detainees in Israeli prisons, some of whom were arrested with their children from the Gaza Strip. The large number of female detainees, according to Fares, indicates that they are “hostages.” He added that despite the release of 71 female detainees, the number increased by about in prisons due to arrest campaigns.
Fares emphasized that Palestinians do not live in a comprehensive state of struggle, so the large numbers mean, according to him, a “comprehensive retaliatory operation.”
He directed criticism at the Red Cross, saying: “Israel has canceled the role of the Red Cross and does not allow its teams to visit any of the prisons to assess the conditions of the prisoners. It does not have lists of names of those who are being arrested, and it now seeks our assistance instead of us seeking its help to complete the files of the prisoners and document their arrests and identify the prisons to which they are transferred.”
“The biggest problem is that the Red Cross does not say that Israel hinders it from performing its duties, does not defend its role, and seems uninterested in demanding space to carry out its responsibilities,” Fares added.
In turn, the Red Cross announced on October 31 of last year that it is deeply concerned about its inability to assess the conditions of Palestinian prisoners and the treatment they receive.
In a statement, it added, “Family visits must be resumed. We are in contact with the families of the detainees, and we communicate with the authorities on this matter through our non-public bilateral dialogue. We will continue to remind the authorities of their commitments.”
Administrative Detention Weapon
Dr. Ammar Dweik, the General Director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, told Daraj that Israeli authorities have been carrying out a wide-ranging arrest campaign in the West Bank since October 7, with an average of 50 arrests per day. This has led to the detention of about 4,000 people from various segments of society, including “children, women, elderly individuals, social activists, university students, and journalists.”
Dweik also noted that Israeli authorities deliberately treat prisoners in a brutal manner from the moment of arrest, and many testimonies have documented the intentional destruction of belongings during arrest operations.
He added that the mistreatment is not limited to physical abuse but also includes “reducing the quantities of provided food and confiscating many of the rights acquired over many years of struggle.”
According to Dweik, these measures include preventing visits by the Red Cross and lawyers, changing the laws governing detainees so that they can be held for eight days before being brought to court (this was 96 hours previously), and then transferring them to administrative detention without charges and without a specified time limit under what is known as the “secret file.”
Moreover, lawyers are unable to speak with detainees to document any attacks they may have experienced. As for detainees from Gaza, Dweik said that “they are placed in Israeli military camps and not detention centers, and they are kept there for 45 days without being presented to court.”
Regarding the role of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, Dweik said they are in constant communication with the International Red Cross, attempting to pressure it to fulfill its role. They have also organized meetings with a group of foreign ambassadors to provide them with information about the situation of Palestinian detainees. Additionally, they issue periodic reports on conditions inside Israeli prisons.
“The Unlivable Life” is the Israeli Goal
In an interview with Daraj, writer and political analyst Noor Odeh says that we must consider the mindset that governs these arrest campaigns, as it deals with the entire Palestinian population as “hostile and a security threat.”
Odeh stated that Israel views the idea of arrest as part of a hostage-taking process within the framework of the ongoing occupation, intending to use this file in negotiations that Israel may be forced to conduct to release hostages held in Gaza.
She explained that this mindset has not changed since the Nakba, and Israel employs the method of mass arrests, intentionally sabotaging the livelihoods of the Palestinian people. The primary goal is to make life unlivable for Palestinians and get rid of them, whether through killing or forced displacement.
Odeh pointed out that Israel, through the image it leaves in the West Bank and Gaza, wants the world to know that it is above the law and acts accordingly because it believes it will not be held accountable for its crimes.
Regarding the policy of the unknown fate that Israel follows after arrest campaigns and not disclosing the fate of detainees, Odeh said: “The unknown is part of a comprehensive intimidation system and is a tool for survival and maintaining colonization.”
Concerning arrest campaigns among women, Odeh commented: “Arresting women in this way has different and extremely harsh cultural and psychological implications for Palestinian society, and Israel is well aware of this.”
“We have seen men in Gaza being stripped of their clothes and dehumanized, and we have also seen trucks transporting prisoners from inside Gaza to the unknown, where women were also stripped of their hijabs and their dignity,” she added.
Warnings of Violations of Exchange Deals
The Palestinian Authority for Prisoners’ and Ex-Prisoner’s Affairs warned of Israel’s breach of the conditions of recently concluded exchange deals, citing the case of Fida Hammad, who was released after six years in prison.
The Authority stated: “A trial session in absentia was held for Hammad yesterday, Monday, in the so-called Haifa Magistrate’s Court.” The Authority added that the judge invited Hammad to a future session with her lawyers to pronounce a verdict.
The Authority mentioned that the judge’s summons came after alleging that Hammad committed violations during her years of captivity against the prison administration and police. Therefore, she must be held accountable for them, without considering that she was released in an official exchange deal.
The Authority emphasized that what happened poses a legal dilemma for Hammad and all those released in exchange deals. This indicates that their files are still circulating in the Israeli courts, and this issue should be addressed.
The Authority called on intermediaries and supervisors of the exchange process, especially Egypt and Qatar, to take note of this incident. It urged them to force Israel to adhere to the conditions of the deal and not to pursue those who have been released.