War on Gaza: Israeli forces detain wife of Middle East Eye correspondent

Mohammed al-Hajjar says his wife Inas was held at a checkpoint as the couple and their young children attempted to move south of Gaza City

MEE staff

Mohammed al-Hajjar with his family hours before his wife Inas was detained by Israeli forces (MEE/Supplied)
Mohammed al-Hajjar with his family hours before his wife Inas was detained by Israeli forces (MEE/Supplied)

Israeli forces arbitrarily detained the wife of Middle East Eye correspondent Mohammed al-Hajjar on Thursday, and refused to disclose why she was being held at a military checkpoint as his family made their way south of Gaza City.

Since Israel launched its ground invasion of Gaza in late October, Israeli forces have detained hundreds of civilians from their homes or while fleeing on roads declared safe by the army. 

Some have been released after interrogation but many have been taken to undisclosed locations.

Hajjar, who has been working with MEE for more than six years, said an Israeli soldier stopped his family at a checkpoint at the Netzarim corridor earlier on Thursday, and ordered him to collect the identification cards of his immediate family members and other Palestinians who were also making their way south of the city.

Hajjar said he was interrogated about everyone near him, and when the soldier checked his wife Inas’s ID card, he asked what their relationship was. After telling the soldier that it was his wife, the soldier said: “Go give her ID to her and tell her to come. You go south”.

“I thought he wanted to ask her something, so I waited outside. The soldier came back and said: ‘Go south, leave from here’,” Hajjar recalled.

He said he told the soldier that he wanted to wait for his wife but he was immediately threatened at gunpoint to leave.

“‘I’m telling you to leave’ the soldier told me, and about eight soldiers pointed their guns at me, took Inas, who had her hands up, and searched her,” Hajjar recalled.

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“They kept telling me to leave and not look back.”

Hajjar added that he then attempted to make his way south with his two young children. After walking for a lengthy period under the midday sun and without any shade, he said he had eventually dropped one of his bags out of exhaustion. 

“A military patrol came and a soldier told me to take the bag. I said I was tired and needed help. He said: ‘We are not supposed to help Palestinians’.”

A couple of hours later, Hajjar said the Israeli army called his wife’s brother, Alaa, and told him: “Wear white clothes and carry a white flag and come surrender yourself. Only when you surrender yourself will we release your sister.”

Hajjar told MEE that his wife Inas has no affiliations with any political groups and that her father used to work in Israel. Meanwhile, her other brother works in her father’s shop and neither he nor his friends are involved with any political factions. 

“I don’t know what they want from her brother.”

Fears for her safety

Speaking late on Thursday, Hajjar said it had been more than 10 hours since he had received any information about his wife, when her brother spoke with Israeli soldiers.

“I am afraid they might mistreat her or be violent towards her. The kids cry all the time, they cried the whole way, and until now, they want their mother,” he said.

Palestinians detained by Israeli forces in Gaza have often been taken to detention centres that are now notorious for subjecting detainees to torture, abuses, and humiliating and degrading conditions.

In February, UN experts decried the reported conditions and abuses meted out to Palestinian women and girls in Israeli detention, including reported “deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing”.

“Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces,” the experts said.

Israel launched its assault on Gaza after the Palestinian group Hamas led an attack on southern Israel on 7 October, killing at least 1,139 people, according to an MEE tally based on official Israeli figures. At least 240 others were seized and taken to Gaza as hostages.

Israel responded with a devastating bombing campaign and ground invasion that has displaced more than 80 percent of Gaza’s population and reduced much of the territory to ruins. More than 34,000 people have been killed, according to Palestinian authorities.

In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli forces have intensified raids since 7 October, killing hundreds of Palestinians and detaining thousands of others.

Israeli forces detain wife of Middle East Eye correspondent at Gaza checkpoint

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