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Israeli army dismisses outcry over stripped Gaza men footage

Dec. 10, 2023 - 21:40 By AFP
A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, shows smoke rising above buildings during Israeli bombardments on Khan Yunis, amid ongoing battles with the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (AFP-Yonhap)

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel's army on Sunday dismissed outcry over footage showing scores of stripped Palestinians in Gaza, saying it was part of routine searches, while Hamas insisted the men were "unarmed civilians."

Footage of the men stripped down to their underwear, with some of them appearing to hand over weapons, was aired by Israeli media on Thursday, reporting the alleged surrender of Hamas militants.

Israel launched an intense military campaign targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in response to the militant group's deadly October 7 attacks on southern Israel.

The latest video clips have already circulated and sparked outrage on social media. A preliminary AFP Factcheck review suggested one of the scenes was filmed in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, though geolocating the footage precisely was difficult.

The arm of a soldier appeared in the foreground in one clip, suggesting it was filmed by a member of the military.

In another clip, of which AFP was unable to confirm the location, a group of blindfolded men are seen sitting with their hands tied behind their backs as Israeli soldiers watch them.

Hamas on Sunday countered the reported Israeli claims, saying the men were not militants of its armed wing, Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

"The (Israeli) occupation's claims that they are from al-Qassam Brigades are unfounded lies," said Izzat al-Rishq, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau.

"The Zionist occupation published images and scenes of unarmed civilians in Gaza, after they were detained and weapons were placed next to them, which is nothing but a chapter out of the occupation's ridiculous and obvious ploy to manufacture an alleged victory over the men of the resistance."

The Israeli army said it often strips people it deems could pose a threat to ensure they do not carry arms or explosives.

Troops in Gaza detain and question individuals suspected of involvement in "terrorist activity," the army said in a statement.

"Individuals who are found not to be taking part in terrorist activities are released," it added, saying that the detainees are treated in accordance with international law.

"It is often necessary for terror suspects to hand over their clothes such that their clothes can be searched and to ensure that they are not concealing explosive vests or other weaponry," it said.

Asked about the images at a briefing earlier this week, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said "terrorists were surrendering." London-based Arabic language news outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed said on Thursday that among those Palestinians stripped down to their underwear was its reporter Diaa al-Kahlout and members of his family.