Inside ‘Israel’s Guantánamo’: Doctor exposes torture and war crimes at Gazan detention camp

The physician chronicles a distressing array of human rights violations that he claims are being perpetrated against detainees, many of whom are civilians ranging from teenagers to elderly individuals.

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A revelation from within the confines of an Israeli detention center casts a long shadow over the nation’s treatment of Palestinian detainees. Described by some as “Israel’s Guantánamo Bay,” the Sde Teiman base near Beersheva, according to an anonymous doctor’s harrowing testimony, is the setting of alleged war crimes against hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

The detention center, notorious for its harsh conditions, has come under scrutiny as the doctor’s letter to Israel’s attorney general and key ministers unveils a grim picture of systematic abuse. The physician, employed at the field hospital within the camp, chronicles a distressing array of human rights violations that he claims are being perpetrated against detainees, many of whom are civilians ranging from teenagers to elderly individuals.

The letter describes detainees held in overcrowded cages, subjected to torture, and living in conditions that starkly contravene international law. “From the first days of the medical facility’s operation until today, I have faced serious ethical dilemmas,” the doctor wrote, indicating the gravity of the camp’s operations that allegedly flout the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law’s stipulations on health and humane treatment.

Israel’s treatment of Gazan detainees under the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows imprisonment without judicial review for up to 75 days, has been criticized by Human Rights Watch for stripping away meaningful due process. The doctor’s account corroborates these criticisms, painting a harrowing picture of the law’s application.

Detainees are reportedly subjected to beatings, electrocution, and other forms of torture, with the whistleblower doctor highlighting particularly egregious medical malpractices. “Just this week, two prisoners had their legs amputated due to handcuff injuries, which unfortunately is a routine event,” he disclosed. Such alarming incidents point to a systemic disregard for the detainees’ well-being, compounded by inadequate medical staffing and resources.

Human rights organizations and some Israeli citizens, have expressed outrage at these revelations. Yet, there appears to be a chilling silence and inaction from Israeli officials, despite the doctor’s repeated warnings and the grave implications of these alleged war crimes.

Former detainees and human rights defenders have drawn parallels between the camp’s conditions and those in historical and contemporary sites of mass detention and torture. The comparison to Guantánamo Bay underscores the global concern over such practices, yet the response from Israeli authorities remains tepid.

The whistleblower’s courageous stand brings to light not only the immediate atrocities being committed but also raises profound legal and ethical questions about the Israeli government’s responsibility and the international community’s role in addressing such violations.

The doctor’s plea for accountability and reform echoes beyond the confines of the detention center, challenging both Israeli society and the global community to confront the reality of these abuses. “This war has to end. This government needs to end,” implored Tamar Megiddo, a senior lecturer at Hebrew University, articulating the growing domestic dissent against the government’s actions.

The alleged war crimes at Sde Teiman detention center demand not only immediate attention but decisive action to uphold human rights and international law.

In a reflection on the situation, the whistleblower doctor lamented, “This makes all of us—the medical teams and you, those in charge of us in the Health and Defense ministries, complicit in the violation of Israeli law, and perhaps worse for me as a doctor, in the violation of my basic commitment to patients, wherever they are, as I swore when I graduated 20 years ago.”

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