Photos and video footage of dozens of imprisoned Palestinians sitting in rows on the ground or in a truck in only their underwear, whether or not handcuffed or blindfolded, have caused a stir worldwide. The images show armed Israeli soldiers keeping an eye on them. The origin of the images, which have been shared on social media since Thursday, is not entirely clear. Israeli television also published the images. Including the BBC concluded that they are at least partly authentic.
Israel previously said it has captured hundreds of Palestinians after they surrendered. Army spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Thursday that some emerged from tunnels after fighting, others from houses or what was left of them after the Israeli bombings. “We arrest them all and we interrogate them,” Hagari said. Israel is trying to determine whether they were Hamas fighters or civilians not affiliated with the militant movement. Most were taken to Israel.
The BBC managed to verify a photo of a line of men sitting along a road in the southern city of Khan Younis. Another photo, of a group of handcuffed, largely naked men in a huge sand pit, looks ominous. Not all of them appear to be Hamas fighters at first glance. Some also seem a bit heavy for military missions or long stays in cramped tunnels. Several people recognized one of the photos the Palestinian journalist Dia Khalout and members of his family, they reported on X, the former Twitter. His employer, the Arabic publication Al-Araby al Jadeedcalled on the international community to protest Khalout’s arrest and Israel’s attack on journalistic freedoms.
Palestinians abroad also identified family members, who according to them were certainly not members of Hamas. The prisoners also included teenagers, some of whom were said to be as young as thirteen years old. Some prisoners are said to have been released by now.
Israel did not explain why the men were undressed. Spokesman Hagari also did not respond to questions from journalists about the humiliating images for the Palestinians involved.
According to Israeli media, some images came from Jabalia and Shejaiya in the north of the Gaza Strip, where there has been heavy fighting in recent days. But such recordings also came from the southern town of Khan Younis, an important Hamas stronghold. Many Hamas fighters are believed to have moved south following Israel’s devastating offensive in northern Gaza last month. Khan Younis would now be their main stronghold. As elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, an extensive tunnel system is suspected under and near the site.
One has been raging for some time now debate to what extent photographs of prisoners of war may be published. There is nothing explicit about this in the Geneva Conventions, which lay down rules for dealing with prisoners of war. But the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), also an authoritative authority in this field, states that exposing prisoners of war to “public curiosity” is in any case humiliating and therefore prohibited. According to the ICRC, this also includes publication by media or social media.
However, the ICRC also leaves some room for publication, for example for the purpose of prosecuting war crimes or public awareness of the importance of compliance with the Geneva Conventions. In such cases, the Red Cross recommends hiding the recognizability of individual prisoners, for example by blurring their faces.