Story of a Woman Abducted by Israel from Gaza — Violence against Palestinian Women

Al Jazeera

A woman abducted from a school in Gaza by Israeli military forces remembers the terrifying experience of her detention. Sexual abuse, beatings, screams, starvation, lack of medical care and psychological suffering and torture – this is what life was like for Amena Hussain (the woman’s name and surname have been changed in the article) during detention in Israel for more than 40 days. A Palestinian woman, a mother of 3 children, was abducted by Israeli forces from a shelter in the Gaza Strip at the end of December.

Amena is one of hundreds of Palestinian women, girls, men and elderly people detained by Israeli forces in an ongoing offensive during the Gaza invasion. Detainees have no communication with the outside world. Israeli soldiers take them to unknown places and do not release information about their whereabouts.

Amena Hussain managed to escape. The woman spoke to Middle East Eye about her experience.

Night Raid

Hussain lived in Gaza with his 3 children, 12 and 13-year-old girls and a 6-year-old boy. Four days into the war, they were joined by Hussain’s sister after her house was bombed.  For almost a month, the family lived amid the terrifying sounds of nearby airstrikes.

The city, which was home to about one million people before the war, was subjected to the kind of bombing that is considered the most destructive in recent history. According to the researchers, in the two months since the beginning of the war, Israel’s attack has caused more damage than the destruction of Aleppo in Syria in 2012-2016, or the Russian attack in Mariupol, or the bombing of Germany’s allies during World War II. Israeli forces have killed more civilians in a genocide of Palestinians than the US-led coalition against the Islamic State has done in three years.

Seeking a sense of safety, Hussain, along with his three children, took refuge in a school in Gaza. But it was not enough.

“The army was obsessively calling me on my phone and asking everyone to leave the school,” says Hussain in an interview with MEE.

NY Times

“I gathered my children and went to a school in Nuseirat district in the central part of the Gaza Strip to seek shelter, but it was so incredibly crowded that we couldn’t even find a place to stand up, let alone sit or sleep. I ended up going around schools looking for a safe place for my children until we found a school in Al-Bureij refugee camp where we would stay,” says the woman.

Amena says that she stayed at the school for 8 days, and on the 9th day the building was bombed by the Israeli army:

“Despite the fact that they knew, the school sheltered displaced women, children and entire families. Thank God, my children and I survived the bombing. After that, I continued to seek refuge in another school.”


Forced to change residence several times in less than two months, Hussain felt relief when he found a suitable shelter in the central Gaza Strip. However, his worst nightmare was yet to begin — less than a month later, Israeli troops arrived.

“After midnight, at 2:30, they brutally broke in and ordered everyone to leave the school. They attacked everyone. The soldiers took the boys out and stripped them. All the men were dragged out in their underwear. So we were until 10 in the morning. At around 3:00 in the afternoon, the soldiers told the women to take their children and ordered them to go south. They spoke with a microphone,” says the woman.

“Each woman could take only one bag and her children. I tried to collect food in cans and the most necessary things for survival and left.”

The New Arab

However, when women started walking out of school, some of them were stopped. Amena Hussain was among them.

“The soldiers asked me for my identity card and took me along with nine other women. I didn’t know any of them because they were from al-Bureij while I am from Gaza. A masked man pointed at me, the soldier called my name and told me to enter the tent. He claimed that there was a doctor there who wanted to have a short interview with me,” Hussain recalled.

To calm her children down, Hussain said he was going to bring them food and water from the tent.

The woman recalls that when she entered the tent, a female officer from Israel was waiting inside, and there were no doctors in the tent.

“Take everything off,” the officer told me in Arabic.

Stripped down to her panties, Hussain was searched from head to toe.

“When the officer did not find anything, he asked me to get dressed. I thought I was being released when suddenly I felt a soldier behind pointing a gun and yelling at me to follow. “Where am I going?” “I asked the soldier and he told me to keep quiet and keep walking until he took me into a big van with other women,” Hussain recalled.


“The soldier handcuffed me, hit me with a gun and tried to hand over my identity card. It was dark, I couldn’t see anything and I couldn’t catch the certificate. He hit me again with his gun and gave me an ID card,” Hussain recalled.

After that, the van started on a long journey.

“Welcome to Israel”

Amena recalls that four or five hours later, the van arrived at its destination.

“I panicked, I felt that I was far away from my children,” she says.

In a place unknown to her, the woman saw a group of men from Israel. One of them said to the women, “welcome to Israel.”

“Amazed and shocked by the idea that I was in Israel, I began to growl and shout: “What will you tell me about my children, what will happen to them, I can’t leave them alone, they have no one.” I felt like I was going crazy. They said my children were fine, but I didn’t believe them,” Hussain recalled.

At this point, one woman was released, while the other nine women, including Amena, were allegedly taken to a detention facility. There, the women saw a group of Palestinian men in their 30’s or 40’s. They sat in the cold wearing nothing but thin medical lab coats.

The women were offered blankets, but Hussain could not look at the naked men without offering help.

“I told the women that we should share the blankets with the men. They were freezing in the terrible cold. I couldn’t see them like that. I was thinking about my children and I was worried about them,” says Hussain.

Then the two groups, women and men, started getting to know each other. They hoped to get some information about their families. However, a short time later, the women were brought out again, handcuffed and with numbered wristbands.

“They put us in the bus and forced us to sit bent down. If I moved my head or changed the position of my body, the female soldier would yell at me and hit me with a gun. She was cursing and kicking me,” says Hussain.

“Then they transferred us to another bus, where they finally gave me a sip of water. Just a sip of water. It was the first thing we ate or drank in 24 hours after we were picked up from school. I struggle with diabetes and chronic high blood pressure. I kept telling the soldiers about it, but they didn’t care. After finally drinking water, I quenched my thirst and fell asleep. The next thing I remember is that it was already daytime,” says Hussain.

Strip Search

After a long and tiring day, the group of women were probably taken to another detention facility, where they spent the next 11 days. Hussain didn’t know for sure where she was or what the facility looked like, because it was mostly under surveillance and the people nearby speak only Hebrew, which she didn’t know. Upon arrival at the institution, Hussain was brought into the room and the bandage over her eye was removed.

“I saw bright lights and a glass window, which I suspect had surveillance cameras. The female soldiers started beating and shouting at me to take off my clothes. “I was surprised that they asked me to take off my clothes again,” says Hussain.

“The female soldier made me take off everything but underwear. She would spit at me in the process.”

“During my arrest, every time we were transferred between places, we were strip-searched. The officers put their hands in our chests and pants, beat and kicked us. If we moved or made any noise, they shouted at us to be quiet,” Hussain adds.

When they finished searching Hussain, they did not return her clothes to the woman.

“I begged the female soldiers to return my bra. I told them I couldn’t move without it, but she kept yelling that I couldn’t wear it. She threw me a pair of pants and a shirt and told me that I could only wear them. When I was dressing, she was constantly kicking me and hitting me with a baton in the face.

It was real torture. A woman obsessed with military revenge, with extremely violent tendencies and as angry as everyone else. Everyone abused me. It was shocking to see women abusing other women. On those who were their age or even older. How could they do this to us?!” – the woman recalls.

Another Palestinian woman, Nabela, who was held captive by Israeli military forces for 47 days, confirms Amena’s story of how women were treated by soldiers. Nabela, fearing that she would be arrested again, did not want to reveal her last name.

“The soldiers were very rude. They beat us and shouted at us in Hebrew. If we raised our heads or said something, they immediately hit us in the head,” Nabela recalls.

Nabela says that during her arrest, military forces separated her from her children, a 13-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, and put her in a truck headed for southern Israel.

“I was terrified. I imagined that they wanted to kill us and bury us there. We were freezing and had to kneel on the ground,” says Nabela.

“They wanted to humiliate us. We were handcuffed, blindfolded and our legs were chained.”

Hussain was later taken to another room where she had to give information about the amount of money and jewellery she had with her. About 1000 USD was taken from the woman, which she had with her, along with gold earrings. After that, Hussain was taken out, in the process she was kicked by men.


Then the woman heard a voice that sounded like her child.

“I thought it was my girl calling me, so I started screaming in response, ‘My baby, my baby,’ but it turned out that it wasn’t my girl,” says Hussain.

Cages and Interrogations

Finally, Amena Hussain was taken to a small room along with 8 women detained with her and 4 other women. According to him, all 13 women were put in a small dark room that looked like a cage where animals are kept.

“There were thin mattresses with blankets, but there were no pillows. Sleeping there was like sleeping on a cold floor. We were handcuffed the whole time,” she says.

According to a statement by a UN team of experts, at least one woman’s report confirms that Palestinian women imprisoned in Gaza were allegedly kept in cages in the rain and cold without food.

“All the bathrooms were dirty and we were afraid of getting sick from using them. There was no running water. I had a water bottle, which I used for both drinking and washing. The girls tried to help and support each other. We wanted to pray, but there was no water for purification before prayer, so we used soil. Every day they brought a small amount of food, barely enough for one person. Actually, we had no food. It was very difficult without food, water, clothes and blankets,” the woman recalls.

Amena says that by this time it was unbearable for her body to endure so much beating, hunger, dehydration and psychological terror.

“My body was exhausted and in bad condition, beaten and abused. I felt like I was going to fall. I was terribly worried about my children, I wondered if they were safe, if they had food and water, if there was warmth, and if they had someone to take care of them,” Hussain continued.

A group of women spent 11 days in this facility. During this period, Amena was taken in for questioning twice, which was no less a traumatic experience.

“They asked me many questions about my family, husband and siblings. The soldiers constantly threatened to harm my children, shouted that if I did not tell the truth, they would torture and kill my children. One of my brothers is a lawyer, two are professors, one is a doctor and one is a barber. They are working people, they have nothing to do with other things. The soldiers insisted that my brothers and sisters were “activists” and when I asked what they meant, they told me that I already knew the answer,” says Hussain.

“I was tied to a chair during the interrogation. A female soldier stood by my side, kicking and hitting me with a gun to make me respond properly.”

“They also asked me about my social media accounts. I told him I only had Facebook. They threatened me that they would continue to spy on me.”

After suffering for 11 days in an unknown facility, Hussain was transferred again. This time to a prison.

Nabela, who changed several detention facilities, was also interrogated, and she, like Amena, was stripped and searched each time. According to Nabela, the interrogation took place with threats with weapons.

The woman was being questioned about possible links to Hamas. She explained to the military that she was a housewife while her husband worked for the Palestinian Authority, which opposes Hamas.

End of the Road

Amena recalls that by the time they brought her to prison, she was exhausted, in pain and hungry. She had not taken his diabetes medication for days and her health was deteriorating. Her cellmates shouted that they needed a doctor, who finally arrived and offered the women some more food and medicine. Then women, for the first time in weeks, were finally able to shower.

“It was the best moment during my stay there. I felt free for a while,” says the woman.

She was kept in this prison for 32 days. Food was given three times a day, but one serving was not enough for one person. The rice, when offered, was uncooked. On day 42, it was finally time to go home.

“Whatever you have, documents or anything else, you can’t take with you, leave everything here,” the soldier told the group of women as they prepared to leave.

“The soldiers stole everything from me. I could not get my money or other things in my possession back. They only returned my earrings which were in an envelope and stole all my money,” says Hussain.

For the moment, the woman thought the worst was behind her, but the road back was just as traumatic as the road ahead.

“After a three-hour journey, we were transferred to another large room. There they removed my blindfold and I saw a group of naked Palestinian women. Female soldiers were kicking me and asking me to undress. I refused, but the woman kept hitting me. Soldiers were entering and exiting the room while we were undressing,” Hussain recalled.

A group of women were able to get dressed again before being released. Amena recalls that a journalist from Israel came with a camera to film the scene before boarding the bus. He also photographed Hussain’s face.

“The soldier told me to say “everything is fine” into the camera and I did. As soon as the journalist finished filming, they put me on the bus. They left us at the intersection of Karem Abu Salem (Karem Shalom). I turned to the soldier and asked about my belongings and money. He told me: run, just run.”

“Then I ran away with other women”, – this is how Amena finishes the story.

What Do International Organizations Say?

On February 19, UN experts expressed concern about the violence and sexual harassment suffered by Palestinian women detained in Israel.

“At least two detained Palestinian women were raped, while others were threatened with rape and sexual violence,” experts say.

The experts are part of the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.

The statement also states that they received reports describing the “arbitrary killing” of Palestinian women and girls in the Gaza Strip.

Detained women were also forced to be subjected to “many forms of sexual violence. Inhuman and degrading treatment, cruel beating”. Also, restricting access to menstrual pads, food and medicine.

► Read more: Women Are Using Tent Cloths as Menstrual Products — a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

In the statement released by the experts, we also read that “some of them were reportedly holding pieces of white cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or its forces.”

A video published by MEE in January 2024 confirms this.  In the video, the grandmother, Hala Rashid Abd Al Ati, was shot down while her grandson was waving a white flag.

Experts are concerned that an unspecified number of Palestinian women and children, including girls, have disappeared since the Israeli army invaded Gaza.

“There are disturbing reports of at least one infant girl being forcibly abducted into Israel by the Israeli army. Also, there are reports of children being separated from their parents, whose whereabouts are unknown,” they say.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of March 2024, more than 30,400 people have been killed in Israeli attacks. 25,000 of them are women and children , which completely changes the distribution of the dead – the majority of the dead are women and children. More than 71 thousand people were injured.

In addition, more than 1.9 million people are internally displaced, of which almost 1 million are women and girls. The entire population of Gaza, approximately 2.2 million people, is on the verge of starvation.

As of February 20, approximately 55,000 women are currently pregnant in the Palestinian Territory, however, as 26 of the 35 hospitals in Gaza are closed, given the current conditions, it is very difficult to give birth. It is especially difficult for pregnant women who have to perform a caesarean section, because they do not have access to anesthesia; Sanitary norms are not observed, which may cause serious complications later, and doctors have to perform procedures without appropriate medical equipment.

It is important that UN Women published the document Gender Alert: The Gender Impact of the Crisis in Gaza in January. It presents the situation in Palestine as part of a six-month multi-sectoral response and focuses on the disparities that make it clear that men and women are affected differently by the ongoing genocide in Palestine.

Groups for experts reminds the government of Israel of their commitment to protect the right to life, safety, health and dignity of Palestinian women and girls and to ensure that no one is subjected to violence, including sexual violence, torture, ill-treatment or degrading treatment.

However, the Israeli government denies the accusations and calls them “disgusting and baseless”. According to them, it is clear that the experts are motivated by hatred of Israel and its people, not by the truth.

The statement also mentions women who were stripped and searched by male officers. In addition, it is said that the soldiers posted pictures of the detained women in a humiliating condition on the Internet.

It should be noted that there is a trend of posting photos and videos of detained Palestinians in humiliating and degrading circumstances on the Internet, and the public has seen such footage on social media that shows Israeli forces abusing Palestinian prisoners physically, sexually and verbally. It should be noted that the footage was taken and distributed by the Israeli military forces themselves. On some materials, people from Israel could send a reaction and write a comment about this crime.


According to MME, the moderators in the channels are announcing in advance and warning people to “prepare” because they are going to publish a new post, which depicts the humiliation, insults, etc. of Palestinians.

“We are burning their mother… You won’t believe the video we got! You can even hear their bones crunching,” they wrote in one of the posts.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas, an organization designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, attacked and massacred Israeli civilians. About 1,400 people were killed and 240 people were kidnapped in the attacks by Hamas. More than 100 of them are still believed to be in captivity. Israel responded to the mentioned actions by invading Gaza and starting a military operation.

Despite the ending of attacks by Hamas on Israel, Israel has not stopped bombing the Gaza Strip since October. Gaza is a Palestinian territory surrounded by Israel on almost all sides. It should be noted that mostly civilians, including women and children, are victims of Israeli attacks in Gaza.

According to the Ministry of Health of the Gaza Strip, as a result of insufficient nutrition and dehydration, at least 15 children died in the Kamal Advani hospital in early March.

In addition, on February 29, Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians who were waiting for the distribution of humanitarian aid. More than 100 people were killed as a result.

Humanitarian and human rights organizations working on the ground call the current situation in Gaza catastrophic. The civilian population is starving and has been completely cut off from access to basic needs, including medical services. International organizations require Israel to comply with international humanitarian law.