Hani Almadhoun, director of philanthropy for the US arm of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA USA), told CNN he knew a dozen people pictured in images showing mass detentions of men by the Israeli military, including his brother.
“They’re neither fighters, they’re not surrendering, they’re just civilians who were there with their families trying to survive this,” Almadhoun said in an interview with CNN’s Pamela Brown Friday, adding that the men he knew from his family had since been released.
Almadhoun said he felt “baffled” and “violated” to see his brother, a father and a shopkeeper, “dragged” from his home in Gaza as a suspected Hamas combatant.
“My brother has seizures and they had him naked in the street and they put him on the beach in the winter, naked taking pictures of him, verifying who he is, and then they released him after they roughed him up a little bit,” he said.
“There is a lot of trauma from this for anybody who is watching, especially for my mom who has lost her son,” he said after describing how another brother and his family had recently been killed in an air strike. “You don’t recover from this. This is not just about justice, this feels like more about revenge.”
Almadhoun added that his family remained in northern Gaza instead of evacuating because they had nowhere to go in the south and had a family member killed in a safe zone. “So, they said, why bother? You die here, you die there,” he said.
Some context: Images from Gaza circulating on social media Thursday showed a mass detention by the Israeli military of men who were made to strip to their underwear, kneel on the street, wear blindfolds, and pack into the cargo bed of a military vehicle.
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson on Friday said the men pictured were “Hamas members and suspect Hamas members” who had been stripped to ensure they were not carrying explosives.
Separately, a government spokesperson told CNN Israeli forces were apprehending military-age men in areas of Gaza where they had been urging evacuation for more than a month, describing these areas as “Hamas strongholds.”
Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political office, accused Israel in a statement of “kidnapping, invasive searches and disrobing” what he said was “a group of displaced Palestinian civilians.”