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Thousands of Palestinian Workers Forced Back to Gaza Amid Conflict

by Ryan Lee
5 comments
Palestinian workers deportation

In a recent development, Israel enforced the return of thousands of Palestinian laborers to Gaza, a zone currently experiencing warfare, according to statements by Palestinian officials. These workers found themselves in a precarious situation, detained amidst the violent conflict that flared up between Israel and Hamas.

Many of these laborers, who had to make their way on foot through an Israeli-controlled crossing—which remained closed since the start of hostilities on October 7—shared their accounts of harsh treatment during their time in custody. Despite these allegations, the Israeli military has yet to offer comments.

Wael al-Sajda, a worker repatriated to Gaza, equated their treatment to that of animals, as he stood near the border with an identification tag secured around his ankle.

These Palestinian workers, numbering around 18,000, were previously granted access to Israel for employment in low-wage positions. Given Gaza’s nearly 50% joblessness rate, these work permits were highly sought after. Israel had viewed the permit issuance as a stabilizing factor for Gaza and as a potential moderating influence on Hamas, in conjunction with a larger blockade targeting the militant group.

However, as of Thursday night, Israeli authorities declared the revocation of these work permits, signaling the imminent deportation of the workers.

Since the October 7 incursion by Hamas militants, which resulted in the death of approximately 1,400 individuals and the abduction of 240, Israel had been largely silent about the fate of the Palestinian workers.

Those returned to Gaza on Friday spoke of a large-scale detainment and subsequent incarceration within Israeli prisons. Reports from these individuals allege physical mistreatment and psychological trauma inflicted by Israeli forces. Some showed signs of physical abuse, while others appeared deeply mentally affected.

One individual, Mansour Warsh Agha, a 61-year-old worker, was tragically returned deceased. His family, desperate for explanations regarding the events leading to his death, received his remains at the Kerem Shalom crossing. They last had contact with him on the day of the attack and later discovered he had been apprehended at the Qalandiya checkpoint.

During their incarceration at the Anatot and Ofer military prisons, detainees reported being blindfolded, assaulted, and subjected to extended periods without sustenance. Al-Sajda recounted harrowing treatment, including being left bound and blindfolded for hours under the sun without access to water or food.

Warsh Agha, who was released in a dire state and later succumbed to his injuries, had visible marks that suggested severe physical assault. However, the capacity for a thorough forensic examination or a formal medical report in Gaza was hindered by the high number of casualties of the ongoing conflict.

Israeli human rights organizations have criticized the detention of the workers, who possessed valid work permits, for the lack of charge or legal representation during a period of severe conflict, all while their families faced the brunt of the attacks in Gaza. The Palestinian Health Ministry has reported over 9,000 fatalities in the recent confrontations.

“These individuals had lawful authorization to reside and work within Israeli borders,” stated Miriam Marmur from Gisha, an Israeli rights group advocating for Palestinian freedom of movement. “Their sudden status revocation left them vulnerable to multiple dangers, from military to civilian threats.”

The full extent of the deportations is not clear, but it is estimated that up to 10,000 Palestinians were returned to Gaza on Friday. While Israeli authorities have refrained from confirming exact numbers, officials acknowledged off-record to The Big Big News that thousands were indeed in Israel at the onset of the Hamas assault and that many were detained.

Though Israeli officials assert there is no evidence linking the workers to Hamas’ actions, rights groups contend that there has been a significant lack of transparency regarding the conditions and whereabouts of the detained laborers.

“The scale of these arrests and the opacity surrounding them are without precedent,” declared Jessica Montell, director of HaMoked, an organization providing legal assistance to Palestinians. The group is striving to ascertain the legal justifications for the detentions and the conditions of the detainees.

Palestinian workers recounted that during the round-up, their personal belongings, including money and phones, were confiscated, and upon their return, these items were not restored.

“We have been returned to our homes empty-handed,” al-Sajda expressed. “Utterly devoid of our possessions.”


This report was contributed to by Goldenberg from Montreal, Canada.


For further reporting, visit AP’s dedicated coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Palestinian workers deportation

Why were Palestinian workers deported from Israel to Gaza?

The Palestinian workers were deported from Israel back to Gaza following the revocation of their work permits by Israeli authorities. This action was taken amidst the heightened conflict between Israel and Hamas, which saw a surge of violence on October 7. The workers had been in a state of legal uncertainty since their detention after the outbreak of hostilities.

What allegations have been made against the Israeli authorities by the deported workers?

Deported Palestinian workers have alleged that they faced violent mistreatment and harsh conditions while detained by Israeli authorities. Reports include being blindfolded, beaten, and deprived of food and water for extended periods, and some workers have returned with visible bruises and injuries.

What was the Israeli military’s response to the allegations of mistreatment?

As of the time of the report, the Israeli military had not provided a comment on the allegations of mistreatment made by the deported Palestinian workers.

What were the conditions of Palestinian workers in Israel before the deportation?

Prior to the deportation, approximately 18,000 Palestinian workers from Gaza had been allowed to work in menial jobs within Israel. The work permits were a significant relief for many, given the high unemployment rate in Gaza, which approaches 50%.

What has been the impact on the families of the deported workers in Gaza?

The families of the deported workers have been left without answers regarding the treatment of their loved ones and are facing the loss of income due to the revocation of the work permits. Additionally, there are reports of psychological trauma and the need for answers in cases where workers have returned injured or, in at least one instance, deceased.

Have Israeli human rights groups reacted to the deportation of Palestinian workers?

Yes, Israeli human rights groups have criticized the lack of due process and legal representation for the detained Palestinian workers. They have also expressed concern over the lack of transparency from the Israeli government about the conditions and the legal grounds for the detentions.

How has the international community reacted to this situation?

The text does not specifically mention reactions from the broader international community. However, human rights organizations within Israel have been vocal in demanding transparency and due process for the affected Palestinian workers.

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5 comments

Samuel G November 4, 2023 - 12:56 am

i think there’s more to the story that we don’t know, maybe the workers were mistreated but we need an investigation to get all the facts straight.

Reply
John D. November 4, 2023 - 3:29 am

It’s so sad to hear about Mansour Warsh Agha the farmer, his family deserves answers and some justice, don’t they?

Reply
Melissa Trent November 4, 2023 - 9:52 am

honestly how is this happening in 2023? and why isnt the international community stepping in more forcefully, so many people have died already…

Reply
Layla Smith November 4, 2023 - 10:02 am

Israel has to explain why they detained workers with legal permits, there should be a law protecting these workers rights

Reply
David Kohn November 4, 2023 - 1:33 pm

this is really concerning, haven’t we seen enough suffering in Gaza? these people were just trying to make a living…

Reply

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