From the early days of the ground operation, all residents of the Gaza Strip detained during the war with Hamas have been placed in a temporary detention camp at the Sde Teiman military base in southern Israel. Terror suspects are held under administrative detention, meaning they can be detained indefinitely. This includes Nukhba terrorists involved in the October 7 massacre, as well as suspects detained during later IDF operations in Gaza. Many are found to be innocent civilians with no ties to terrorism. If interrogation reveals no involvement in terrorism, they are returned to Gaza.

In late March, a military doctor working at the field hospital in the Sde Teiman detention camp sent a letter to the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Health, and the Attorney General. The letter described the conditions in which detainees were held and highlighted numerous violations of medical ethics and laws. One example cited, as reported by Haaretz in early April, involved two detainees who had their feet amputated due to injuries caused by handcuffs.

Reports about the conditions at Sde Teiman began to surface not only in Israeli media but also in foreign outlets. Gaza residents who were later released claimed they were tortured in the camp. Journalists were unable to find other sources to confirm these claims.

Subsequently, several human rights organizations filed a petition with the High Court of Justice demanding the closure of Sde Teiman. In response, the IDF Chief of Staff ordered an investigation into the conduct of soldiers at the base. The government informed the High Court of Justice that by the end of June, the Sde Teiman temporary detention camp would no longer be used to detain Gaza residents suspected of terrorism. Detainees will be transferred to the Ktzi'ot and Ofer prisons.

Alla Gavrilova spoke with a paramedic who, during reserve duty, served for several days at the Sde Teiman base, both as a guard in the prison section and in the hospital.

What does the detention area look like?

The base consists of several large hangars. In the one I guarded, detainees sit in rows on the ground with their hands tied and eyes blindfolded. They are not allowed to lie down, stand up, talk, or try to peek from under the blindfold. Detainees range from about 18 to 65 years old and are all men. The sick or wounded are allowed to lie down in the front rows. Each hangar has several intermediaries who liaise between detainees and guards. These are usually people no longer suspected of terrorism who know some Hebrew. They are not blindfolded, and their hands are not tied with plastic ties. For example, they call the guards when a detainee needs to use the toilet; at this point, their hands are untied, and they are led to a portable toilet. Another hangar is called the "geriatric" hangar for elderly and sick detainees, but I haven't been there.

What struck you the most when you first went on duty?

The smell was overwhelming. Some of our guys even wore masks, like during the coronavirus pandemic. They were taken to shower once or maybe twice a week if I remember correctly. They don't change clothes. Plus, there was a strong sewage smell. It was awful.

The overall attitude was also striking. Everyone there is called Nukhba, meaning all detainees are treated as terrorists responsible for the October 7 massacre. But there are people there with no ties to Hamas, yet they are treated as terrorists. I don't think even terrorists should be treated like that – that's why we imprison rather than torture murderers. The soldiers there see all detainees as Nukhba and treat them accordingly. Some soldiers bragged about beating detainees. Punishments are severe for minor disobedience.

How are they punished? Did you witness detainees being beaten?

The most common punishment is making them stand with their hands raised. If someone talks, they are usually shushed first, then told to stand with raised hands until allowed to sit down. Some stand for hours.

I saw twice an officer and a soldier taking detainees behind a portable toilet, and you could hear the sounds of beatings. Later, the soldier would say they were "disciplining" the detainees.

It's a grim atmosphere. I saw people rolling on the floor, screaming in hysteria, "I'm not Hamas, let me go." The hospital is even worse.

Why is the hospital worse? What does it look like?

It's a field tent with eight beds each. Patients are tied to the beds, blindfolded, naked except for diapers, and have something like catheters. They do have blankets – I was there in December.

What kind of patients are there? What injuries? What kind of medical care is provided?

There's a variety. Some have amputated limbs; others have wrist injuries that will likely lead to amputation. I asked medics about it, and they said it might be from handcuffs being too tight for too long. There are gunshot wounds, shrapnel injuries, fractures, concussions – all sorts. Some patients usually stay in the hangars but visit the hospital for procedures.

The atmosphere is similar to the one in hangars. The medical staff acts like they're doing the detainees a favor; treating them feels like a moral injury. They had to change diapers during a war, and the mood in December wasn't good.

There's no accountability. Medical personnel's names aren't recorded, and procedures aren't logged. There's no one to complain to. Sometimes, soldiers are allowed to practice on detainees—not on complex procedures, of course, but things like draining pus from wounds. Surgical interns are thrilled because they get to perform many complex operations in a short time. Medical staff call each other by initials if detainees might hear them to prevent revenge.Detainees are only given Acamol for pain relief.

Even during painful procedures?

Yes. One detainee, supposedly a terrorist, asked me in Hebrew for morphine for his operation, saying he wasn't given any last time. I passed on his request, and the staff reluctantly agreed. Mid-surgery, it was clear he had had too little dose, and he said in English, "Doctor, I feel pain." The medic replied, "Our guys felt pain too."

In response to our inquiry, the IDF spokesperson said that about 4,700 suspects have been detained at Sde Teimansince the start of the war. Around 1,000 of them have been released and sent back to Gaza.

The IDF is investigating 70 cases of alleged mistreatment of detainees by soldiers at Sde Teiman. Ten soldiers have been suspended from duty at the facility.