By Abeer Salman, CNN
Jerusalem (CNN) — Images from Gaza circulating on social media Thursday showed a mass detention by the Israeli military of men who were made to strip to their underwear, kneel on the street, wear blindfolds, and pack into the cargo bed of a military vehicle.
The exact circumstances and dates of the detentions are unclear, but some of the detainees’ identities were confirmed by colleagues or family members.
Both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas responded Friday to the images.
IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus told CNN the men pictured were “Hamas members and suspect Hamas members.” He said they were “without clothes in order to make sure they’re not carrying explosives.”
Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political office, accused Israel in a statement of “kidnapping, invasive searches and disrobing” what he said was “a group of displaced Palestinian civilians.” He called it a “reprehensible crime” and urged human rights organizations to intervene.
At least some of the men are civilians with no known affiliation to militant groups, according to a conversation CNN had with one of their relatives and a statement by one of their employers, a news network.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor posted an image of one detainment and said in a statement on its website Thursday that “the Israeli army detained and severely abused dozens of Palestinian civilians.”
“Euro-Med Monitor received reports that Israeli forces launched random and arbitrary arrest campaigns against displaced people, including doctors, academics, journalists, and elderly men,” it said.
CNN has geo-located some of the images to Beit Lahia, north of Gaza City.
The Israeli media, without indicating a source, has portrayed the images as the surrender of Hamas members. A journalist asked IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari about the images during a news conference on Thursday, saying, “We’ve seen images of many captives, Hamas terrorists, that the IDF arrested during the ground maneuvering.”
Hagari said that, in fighting Hamas, “those left in the area gradually come out.”
“We investigate and check who has ties to Hamas, and who does not,” he said. “We arrest them all and question them. We will continue dismantling each one of those strongholds until we are done.”
In a statement Thursday, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed said that one of its correspondents and several members of his family were among those detained as part of the incident portrayed in the images.
It reported that Diaa Al-Kahlout was arrested by Israeli troops at gunpoint and forced to leave his disabled daughter behind, before he was allegedly stripped and beaten.
“Today, Thursday, the Israeli occupation army arrested the journalist and the director of ‘The New Arab’ office in Gaza, our colleague Diaa Al-Kahlot, from Market Street in Beit Lahia, along with a group of his brothers, relatives, and other civilians,” Al-Araby Al-Jadeed wrote.
“The occupation deliberately forced Gazans to take off their clothes, searched them, and humiliated them when they were arrested before taking them to an unknown destination, according to what the people there told us. Pictures and video clips spread showing soldiers arresting dozens of Gazans using criminal and humiliating method.”
Hussam Kanafani, the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed editor-in-chief, said in the statement that Al-Kahlot and his family were still missing.
“We will make every effort possible, in cooperation with international institutions and organizations concerned with the rights and freedom of journalists in the world, to determine the whereabouts of our colleague Diaa and release him as soon as possible,” Kanafani said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was concerned by reports of Al-Kahlout’s arrest and called for his release.
“The Israeli army should disclose his location, release him immediately, and take steps to ensure the safety of all journalists covering this war, especially those in Gaza who face imminent harm,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement.
CNN spoke with a relative of other detained men, Hani al-Madhoun, from his home in the United States.
“Israeli forces arrived on the street and called out all the men to come out, and they complied,” al-Madhoun told CNN. “This house was their place of refuge after our two homes were destroyed.”
Al-Madhoun said he was in contact with his sister, who is in Gaza.
He said that he recognized his cousin Aboud in one of the photographs and saw his brother Mahmood in a video. He said that Mahmoud is a shopkeeper and Aboud “is not involved in any activities; he helps his father in construction.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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CNN’s Kareem El-Damanhoury and Eyad Kourdi contributed reporting.