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'Nazi-like collective punishment': Israel cancels Gazan workers' work permits, detains them

Following the recent escalation in the Israel-Palestine conflict last month, a process of exile and detention has commenced for thousands of workers from Gaza who previously held work permits in Israel. They are now facing collective punishment, which is considered illegal under international law.

Anadolu Agency WORLD
Published November 04,2023

After last month's flare-up in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the process of exile and detention has begun for thousands of workers from Gaza who had work permits in Israel but are now being subjected to collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.

The work permits of all Gazan workers have been canceled by Israeli authorities.

Some of the workers took shelter in the occupied West Bank using their own means because they did not find Israel safe because of the threats against them and because they had no way to go to Gaza due to the war.

Thousands were first detained and imprisoned by Israeli forces in the places where they worked, and then sent back to Gaza.

Israel announced on Nov. 2 that the Palestinian workers in Israel would be sent back to Gaza.

"Israel is cutting off all contact with Gaza," a statement from the Israeli Prime Ministry Press Office said, adding: "There will be no Palestinian workers from Gaza left in Israel, and the Gazan workers who were in Israel on the day the war started will be returned to Gaza."

Following this decision, thousands of Gazan workers were sent to Gaza from the Kerem Shalom Border Gate in southern Israel.

However, it is not known whether there are any Gaza workers still in Israeli prisons.

When contacted by Anadolu, the Israeli Army press office and the Unit for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Palestinian Territories (COGAT), which is affiliated with the Israeli army, did not provide information about the detained Gazan workers.

Speaking to Anadolu on Friday, the Israeli human rights group Gisha and Palestinian officials stressed that Israel is imposing "collective punishment" on Gaza workers who had previously received work permits.

A written statement by Gisha, which works to defend the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gazans, said that these workers, who were in Israel during the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, have since been "unlawfully and secretly detained and arrested" by Israeli officials.

It said some of the thousands of Gazan workers were "held against their will, cut off from the world, and deprived of the right to due process" in Israeli military bases in the West Bank.

Gisha submitted a petition to Israeli authorities on the Gazans who entered Israel both as workers and with permission to receive medical treatment, it said.

"Israel refused to disclose the names and whereabouts of these people it holds, as well as the legal grounds for detaining these people. We have reason to believe that the conditions of detention in these facilities are extremely harsh and that detainees are being subjected to intense physical violence and psychological abuse, as well as being held in inhumane conditions," it said.

Shahir Saad, head of the Union of Palestinian Trade Unions, told Anadolu that many workers who worked in Israel have contacted them.

"They arrested some of these workers. The workers we spoke to said they were interrogated and asked whether they knew anyone from Palestinian resistance groups such as Hamas," he said.

He said many of these workers detained in Israeli prisons since Oct. 7 have been subjected to practices such as physical violence and being left naked.

"The Israeli occupation state punishes workers or civilians without discrimination," he said.

"As you know, under this occupation, there is no guarantee of life for not only the Palestinian people, but also for anyone, including journalists like you, who come to the West Bank," he added.

"Because all this occupation regime does is oppress, punish, and violate the rights of the Palestinian people. What Gaza workers are subjected to is a complete collective punishment and is against all legal norms."

Rami Mahdawi, spokesperson for the Palestinian Labor Ministry, also said the Gaza workers they reached had been interrogated, humiliated, tortured, and beaten by Israeli forces.

Stating that thousands of workers are believed to be under arrest in Israel, Mahdawi underlined that similar practices are also being carried out in the West Bank and also that dozens of workers were arrested in the West Bank city of Hebron.

According to information obtained by Anadolu from the Palestinian Labor Ministry and the Union of Palestinian Trade Unions, there are 5,850 Gazan workers temporarily staying in facilities provided for them in various cities of the West Bank such as Ramallah, Jericho, Tulkarim, and Hebron.

Mahdawi said Israeli forces carry out daily raids and detentions in the West Bank and that thousands of Gazan workers stranded in the West Bank are also exposed to these dangers.

Pointing out that the workers' accommodation and needs are provided by the Palestinian Authority and non-governmental organizations, Mahdawi also said the Turkish state aid agency, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), will also provide assistance to those workers.

"We call on international organizations and human rights organizations, such as the International Labor Organization and the Red Cross, to first protect these workers and ensure their rights," he said.