My kind neighbor was tortured while working in Israel

Palestinian workers make their way back into the Gaza Strip, 3 November 2023. (Ahmed Ibrahim / APA Images) 

Since the beginning of 2023, Sami had worked in Israel at a slaughterhouse near the boundary with Gaza.

Sami lives in Gaza and, for the past 20 years, had supported his six children by working at my local neighborhood market. But when it came time for two of his sons to get married, he needed a bigger income.

On 7 October, he hid in a basement in one of the kibbutzim. When Israeli troops found him, they detained him in a prison along with thousands of other Palestinian workers.

They were blindfolded and stripped naked. They were forced to listen to others screaming and being tortured.

When Israeli forces interrogated Sami, they showed him a picture of his house and said that it was marked as a bombing target. They threatened to kill his wife and kids.

They interrogated him about everyone in his neighborhood and blamed him for the 7 October attacks.

After the interrogation, they kicked Sami and the other prisoners and beat them with metal rods.

They peed on the Palestinian prisoners then put them in freezing cold rooms, naked. The soldiers then soaked the mattress with water and forced Sami to sleep on it.

He slept on the same mattress with two other prisoners.

In one instance, the soldiers beat Sami until he blacked out. Sami witnessed several Palestinians die due to the beatings and torture.

The soldiers put the men in black bags, only to be taken God knows where.

After 30 days, Sami was released. But the Israeli army ensured that this release would be humiliating and inhumane, and Sami was dressed in an Israeli flag.

Sami is in his late fifties and had to have a cardiac catheterization due to high blood pressure. He is one of the kindest people I know.


Marzouk is a father to three boys and five girls. His youngest daughter Mena has Down syndrome.

She would always wait for her father by the door to get off work. However, after he got a job in Israel, she stopped waiting at the door and started asking when he would ever come home.

He had a day off on 7 October and had gone to his cousin’s home.

He decided to turn himself over to the Israeli authorities so he wouldn’t get killed.

The Israeli forces beat and tortured him. They dragged him naked across gravel and released dogs to intimidate and attack him.

He was also recently released, and Mena is happy that her father is alive.


Saeed and his brother also work in Israel.

On 7 October, he hid in a shipping container with his fellow workers, including two men from Thailand. Their boss fled to Eilat – a city in Israel – leaving his workers to their fates.

The Israeli army came and knocked on the container, but the workers did not open it. Saeed’s only son called and asked him to turn himself in, fearing his father could get killed.

Saeed did as his son requested. The Israeli army ordered them to take their clothes off and to walk out of the container holding their clothes.

The workers were arrested and imprisoned.

When he was released, he was taken, along with Marzouk and Sami, to Kerem Shalom, the Israeli-controlled crossing through which goods enter and leave Gaza.

They were blindfolded and handcuffed and put on a bus. They were ordered not to look back or they would be killed.

The Israeli army shot at their feet and laughed.

The freed workers, many of them elderly, ran for 8 kilometers on foot until they reached Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city.

I do not think they will ever recover from this horrific experience.

Since Sami returned, he has cried nonstop.

Marzouk does not leave his house and has trouble hearing.

Saeed cannot get out of bed because of leg injuries.

It does not make sense that they are the lucky ones. So many other Palestinians imprisoned by Israel could face a much more dire reality as Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, considers legalizing the death penalty.

Sahar Qeshta is a writer in Gaza.