Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, said on Monday that Palestinians released from Israeli detention were “completely traumatized” by a “broad range” of abuse.

The comments follow a New York Times report on an internal UNRWA investigation detailing accounts of abuse in Israeli detention. According to UNRWA, Palestinian detainees have claimed they were beaten, stripped, robbed, blindfolded, sexually abused and denied access to lawyers and doctors, often for more than a month. The investigation is based on interviews with more than 100 of the 1002 detainees released by Israel, yet it estimates that 3000 detainees aged between 6 and 82 remain detained in Israel without access to lawyers.

“We have seen these people coming back from detention, some of them for a couple of weeks, some of them for a couple of months, and most of them coming back (are) completely traumatized by the ordeal they have gone through,” Lazzarini said.

Israel has claimed that, following Hamas’s attack on Southern Israel on October 7, these detentions and interrogations were necessary to identify Hamas members, but denied any abuse, stating that all mistreatment was “absolutely prohibited”.

Lazzarini’s comments capped a tumultuous day during which Israel and UNRWA have traded accusations. UNRWA claimed, in a statement to AFP, that several of its staff who were arrested and imprisoned, experienced “torture, severe ill-treatment, abuse and sexual exploitation” in Israeli detention, with Israel accusing the agency of having employed more than 450 “terrorists”.

With AFP