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The Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine calls for the immediate release of Gaza workers detained by Israel

Ramallah – 25/10/2023 – The Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine denounces the continued illegal detention of an estimated 4000 Palestinian workers from the Gaza Strip by Israel, and calls upon the international community and the international labor movement to intervene for their immediate release.

Since October 7, 2023, Israeli police and border guards have been arresting Gazan workers and detaining them in police station and then in army camps in crowded, unsanitary conditions, often withholding food and water for long periods of time according to the testimonies of workers, who have been subsequently released and deported to the West Bank[1]. On October 10, Israel collectively cancelled about 18,500 work permits of Palestinian workers from the Gaza Strip employed in Israel, instantly turning thousands of Gazan workers living and working in Israel at the time into “illegal aliens” from Israel’s perspective[2]. Furthermore, at least a 100 workers from Gaza, who had reached the West Bank, were arrested from their temporary lodgings during Israeli army raids last week in Hebron and Bethlehem governorates. In total, it is estimated that about 4000 workers are currently detained by Israel, in Anatot military camp near Anabta and Ofer camp near Betunia in the occupied West Bank, and possibly in another Israeli military camp in the Negev desert as well[3].

We are extremely worried about the conditions of detention of Gazan workers, and their fate, as they are kept incommunicado and isolated from the world. Workers have not been allowed to talk to lawyers, nor has the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed whether it has been able to visit them or not. Neither the Palestinian Authority nor human rights associations have been able to obtain a list of workers detained by Israel and where each of them is detained. In fact, six human rights organizations in Israel, namely HaMoked, Gisha, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, have submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice on October 23, 2023, asking the court to order the Israeli army, Prison Service and the Israel Police to disclose the workers’ names and location and release them[4]. Their family members, who remained in Gaza, are frantic for news of their loved ones. Thus, for the past two days, DWRC has attempted to locate M., a worker from Al-Shuja’ia in the Gaza Strip, at the request of his wife, who has lost all contact with him over ten days ago.

Israel has not clarified the status of the Gazan workers it has arrested, nor given grounds for their continued internment, other than declaring that they cannot be returned to Gaza. These workers are civilians, and are considered as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. They went through a thorough Israeli security wetting before being issued work permits to Israel, which means that they are not considered as presenting even the slightest security risk.

In light of the above, we are deeply concerned that the conditions of internment of Gazan workers do not meet the minimum requirements set by international humanitarian law, and that they are exposed to various forms of collective and individual abuse and mistreatment. Furthermore, we fear that Gazan workers have been interned for the purpose of being used as leverage by Israel, i.e. that they are actually being held hostage. Citing Hamoked’s press release: “Testimony received by the petitioners from a Palestinian man who was held in Anatot indicate that the holding conditions in the detention centers are extremely dire. The man was detained in Israel on October 8 and held for three days in a cage-like structure, exposed to the elements, with no food, water, medication or a mattress and without access to a toilet. He was later transferred to another encampment, which he described as a “livestock pen,where he was held with hundreds of workers from Gaza. At a certain point, an officer told the detainees that they were being held because there were Israeli hostages in Gaza, and that as long as the Israeli hostages were in Gaza, there was no prospect of the workers’ release.”[5]

In consequence, we call upon the international community and the international labor movement to demand the immediate release of Gazan workers detained by Israel, and ask that they are returned to Gaza or to the West Bank until their safe return to Gaza and their families can be ensured. For inquiries and further information, please contact:

[1] You can refer back to DWRC’s statement issued on 11/10/2023 “DWRC denounces beatings and humiliating treatment inflicted by Israeli police, border guards and civilians on Gazan workers employed in Israel and calls for urgent labor movement solidarity”



[4] Ibid footnote 2

[5] Ibid footnote 2

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