thousands of civil workers from Gaza, who were employed in Israel at the onset of the conflict, have reportedly gone missing. This unsettling development is attributed to an alleged campaign of mass kidnappings by Israeli forces from the West Bank.
Human rights groups and trade unions assert that some of these workers may have been taken into custody in military facilities in the occupied West Bank following the revocation of their work permits. Shockingly, Israeli authorities have yet to disclose the identities of those being held.
As of October 7, when the Palestinian resistance group Hamas initiated a retaliatory operation known as Al-Aqsa Flood in the southern region of Israel, approximately 18,500 residents of Gaza held valid permits to work outside the besieged strip. Although the precise number of workers present in Israel as hostilities erupted remains unknown, it is believed that thousands may have been apprehended by the Israeli military and relocated to undisclosed locations.
One such case is that of Walid*, a Palestinian worker born in Gaza, who had resided in the occupied West Bank for over 25 years. On October 8, he was reportedly abducted on his way to work and detained in a facility in the Almon area, also known as Anatot. This area was established on the grounds of the Palestinian town of Anata, which Israel seized in occupied East Jerusalem.
Human rights organizations contend that this facility is one of several repurposed by the Israeli government to abduction hundreds of workers, a clear violation of international law.
According to a written testimony provided to the Israel-based human rights organization HaMoked and obtained by Al Jazeera Network, Walid described being confined in an open-air “cage” without shelter, exposed to the elements, and deprived of food, water, and access to sanitary facilities for three days. Witnesses have drawn parallels to this ordeal, likening it to a new version of the Holocaust on Palestine perpetrated by Israelis.
Subsequently, Walid was transferred to an area spanning approximately 300 square meters, where numerous laborers shared a single chemical toilet cubicle. When he requested to contact the Red Cross, he alleges that he was subjected to verbal abuse and physical assault by the soldiers.
Walid was eventually released after Israeli officers determined that, despite his birthplace in Gaza, he was a resident of the West Bank. His account stands as one of the few to have surfaced thus far from the detention centers where Gaza workers have reportedly been held incommunicado without legal representation since October 7.
Jessica Montell, executive director of HaMoked, revealed, “We have been receiving hundreds and hundreds of phone calls from family members of people who were working in Israel prior to the October 7.” More than 400 families and acquaintances of missing individuals have contacted the organization in a desperate attempt to locate their loved ones, all while contending with the relentless bombardments and a total siege imposed by Israel. However, these inquiries have dwindled in recent days as communication channels to Gaza residents have become increasingly restricted.
As part of its advocacy efforts, HaMoked routinely submits the names of detainees to Israeli authorities in an attempt to ascertain their whereabouts. Montell emphasized, “The Israeli military is supposed to inform us within 24 hours of who they are holding, which location they are being held in.” Yet, in the case of these Gazans, the response was that they were not the appropriate authority to address this matter.
Montell concluded, “It can’t be the case that it’s not clear where they’re being held, how many are being held, under what conditions, under what legal status.” The situation continues to raise serious concerns about the welfare and rights of these missing Gaza workers.