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Israel phasing out use of desert detention camp after CNN investigation detailing abuses

Israel is phasing out the use of the detention camp of Sde Teiman in Israel’s Negev desert, a state attorney told Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday during a first-ever hearing about the facility where hundreds of Palestinian detainees from Gaza have allegedly been held under conditions of extreme abuse.

State attorney Aner Helman told the court that 700 inmates had been moved to Ofer military facility in the occupied West Bank, with another 500 set to be transferred in the weeks to come. Around 200 detainees will remain in Sde Teiman, said Helman, who added that the state would provide an update on their status within three days.

Last week, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said the military launched a probe into the allegations of mistreatment at Sde Teiman, as well as at Anatot and Ofer, two other military detention camps for Palestinians from Gaza. The committee tasked with examining the conditions of Palestinian detainees from Gaza is set to submit its recommendations to Halevi this month.

According to the accounts, the camp some 18 miles from the Gaza frontier is split into two parts: enclosures holding scores of detainees from Gaza, and a field hospital where wounded detainees are blindfolded, strapped to their beds, wearing diapers and fed through straws.

In a May 20 response to a petition led by the rights group Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), the Israeli government said it is set to “reduce the number of inmates held in military facilities in general and the facility of Sde Teiman in particular, with the intention that this facility will be used as a reception, interrogation and initial sorting facility, for keeping prisoners for short periods only.”

“Detainees are handcuffed based on their risk level and health status. Incidents of unlawful handcuffing are not known to the authorities.”

The IDF did not directly deny accounts of people being stripped of their clothing or held in diapers. Instead, the Israeli military said that the detainees are given back their clothing once the IDF has determined that they pose no security risk.

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