On the night of November 2, an Israeli cabinet decision was announced (Hebrew) to “return the workers that had been in Israel on the day the war began to Gaza.” In an email to the director of Gisha’s legal department responding to our inquiries about Palestinian workers from Gaza being detained by Israel, received late on November 2, a lawyer from the legal department of Israel’s National Security Council referenced the cabinet decision to return the workers to Gaza.

Gisha and HaMoked, as well as other human rights organizations, had previously submitted a letter, petition and individual inquiries to Israeli authorities regarding hundreds of Gaza residents, including both workers and people who had entered Israel with permits to receive medical treatment, who were present in Israel on October 7 and had since been unlawfully, secretly detained by Israeli authorities. The organizations demanded that Israel disclose who it was holding and where, and release any persons unlawfully detained to the West Bank until they are able to return to Gaza. Yesterday afternoon (November 2), Gisha and HaMoked submitted a second urgent petition to Israel’s High Court on behalf of 568 Gaza workers who were apparently detained and were being held unlawfully in Israeli detention centers. 

The detainees were being held by Israel in at least two facilities on Israeli military bases in the West Bank against their will, cut off from the world and without access to legal representation, deprived of their right to due process. Israel refused to disclose the names and whereabouts of all the people it was holding, as well as the legal grounds for their detention. We have reason to believe that the holding conditions in these facilities were extremely dire, and that detainees were subjected to extensive physical violence and psychological abuse, as well as being held in inhumane conditions.

On the morning of November 3, media reports showed Palestinians entering the Strip by foot via Kerem Shalom Crossing, citing (Arabic) that they are workers. We don’t know if all the workers and other Gaza residents who were detained in Israeli detention facilities have been released to the Strip, but it appears that this is at least the start of the implementation of the November 2 cabinet decision. According to reports (Arabic), workers were released back to Gaza without the money and cellular phones that had been taken from them when they were detained by Israeli authorities.

To read the November 2 petition by HaMoked and Gisha translated to English, see here.