'Impossible to describe the savagery with which my 17-year-old son was treated in Israeli jail'

Kassam woke up in hospital to find his hand missing after Israeli soldiers threw a sound grenade in his direction. Credit: ITV News

By Leila Sansour, ITV News Producer

A Palestinian child prisoner and his father have told ITV News the story of his ordeal, and the surprise and woes of freedom after his release as part of the hostage-prisoner exchange deal. 

On June 25, just one day before the last exam of his final year at school, Kassam Masarwa went to take a break outside with his grandfather.

A sound grenade was thrown at him by Israeli soldiers trying to disperse a crowd. Kassam bent down to kick the canister away and lost consciousness. 

He woke up in the hospital the following day to find that he had lost his right hand. His father, Khaled Masarwa, an ambulance worker, was beside him and stricken with grief, but said he was doing everything he could to console and give him confidence. 

Kassam pictured just out of hospital on July 1. Credit: Masarwa family

A week later, he was out and staying at his aunt's. Her house was five minutes away from the hospital and he needed daily check-ups and changes of dressing. He was in a lot of pain.

"Hurry up, they are beating Kassam" - that was the message his dad received late afternoon on July 3.

He dashed in his ambulance in a desperate attempt to rescue his son. Khaled Masarwa told: ITV News, "My son was only 17. He had barely recovered from his operation."

He arrived to find at least nine armoured vehicles surrounding the building, with more than 45 armed soldiers inside beating, screaming and interrogating his son. 

They were demanding to see his telephone handset - his father had taken it away from him the week before so he could study. 

Both father and son were then dragged out of the house blindfolded and shoved into two separate armoured vehicles to be taken away. 

"They struggled to handcuff me because I didn't have one hand so they strapped my left hand to the belt of my trousers then threw me on the floor of the car," Kassam said.

After a spree of interrogations at a Palestinian farm house, which the Israeli army had occupied to gather and question other detainees, the father was released but Kassam was taken away and kept in prison without charge. 

A Palestinian resident trapped on the second floor took a photograph of Khaled Masarwa and other detainees on the day of their arrest.  Credit: Supplied

"They stopped beating me only once I was delivered to the Salem jail. They wouldn't allow me to see a doctor at first.

"When I did later, the doctor wouldn't dress my wounds. He just gave me the dressings I needed. I did it myself while he sat in front of me and mocked me in Hebrew. I was only given one or two paracetamol pills a day before sleep", Kassam said.

He even had to remove the stitches in the end with his own teeth. 

The treatment of Palestinian children detained by Israel is not widely reported, but an investigation by UK-based charity Save the Children has unearthed a catalogue of abuse.

Nearly all detainees had experienced "appalling levels of physical and emotional abuse, including being beaten [86%], being threatened with harm [70%], and hit with sticks or guns [60%]." 

"After October 7", Kassam told ITV News "things became intolerable".

"They took away all our belongings including all electronics, food, and even clothes and bedding. We had to sleep with a sheet for a cover. It was very cold.

"On October 30 the beating squad came in. It was dreadful. So many of us thought we might not come out of this alive. They beat us so hard, many boys had broken bones and they received no treatment. We had to look after each other. We tried to be kind to each other.

"One boy in my room had a broken skull, we even saw maggots coming out of his wound in the end."

Defence of Children International told ITV News: "Palestinian child prisoners have routinely been subject to all forms of torture in Israeli jails from the psychological pressure of interrogations without the presence of lawyers or guardians,  heavy beatings, the withholding of food and medication to threats of rape and even killing.

"The situation, since October 7 has deteriorated enormously.

"It is profoundly disturbing and we, alongside a number of human rights organisations are calling for an international inquiry commission to investigate these grave human rights violations."

On November 25, the day of his release, Kassam was ordered to come for interrogation.

He was made to strip naked and asked to stand up and sit down repeatedly as a final attempt to humiliate him. But by the end of that day, he was free at last. 

Kassam on the night of his release with his father (right) and grandad (left). Credit: Masarwa family

Kassam's father is overjoyed that his son is back, but he is very concerned about how he will secure an adequate treatment for him. "Kassam dreamed of becoming a vet", he told ITV News.

"He loves working with animals but, now, with one hand missing, this will be a difficult dream to realise."

And, with all that is happening in Gaza and the amount of Palestinian children who will need artificial limbs, he is not sure he will ever be able to secure an adequate treatment for his son. 

Kassam with his friend and classmate, Raja Assad Abu Qiyas (left), who was released from jail with him on the same day. Credit: Masarwa family

When Kasam is asked how he feels now that he is out of jail, he said: "It is good to be free but I keep thinking of my friends who remain in captivity.

"They were all my age. We had no one but each other.

"There were six of us in one room. When someone was injured we cared for them. They cared for me. I feel strange being outside when they are still there.

"I think about them all the time. When I am warm I think they must all be cold. When I am full, I feel bad because I know they are hungry". 

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