Israel's Guantanamo: Facility 1391

Israel's Guantanamo: Facility 1391
4 min read
06 January, 2015
Speculation continues about the location of a secret prison facility in Israel, as former inmates speak out about the dire conditions they were forced to endure.
Fifteen Palestinians are believed to be detained in Israel's secret "Facility 1391" prison [al-Araby]
Former inmates know very little about the place. When they would ask where they were they were told: "You're on the moon." Few realised they were locked up in the most secret prison in Israel: Facility 1391.

Human rights organisations have been unable to locate the prison, where many continue to say they have been tortured. No one knows who is detained there. Many former prisoners are too scared to talk about their time inside, as the memories are too painful.

The Israeli intelligence service has refused requests to reveal its location or to allow prisoners visitation rights.  The only thing we know for certain is that there is a secret detention centre in Israeli bearing the number 1391. 

Dire conditions

A former inmate described the prison to al-Araby al-Jadeed as "the worst prison on earth".

The 40-year-old man was arrested on 12 March 2002 and taken to Huwarra military camp close to Nablus. There he was blindfolded and kept in isolation: "I was told I was too dangerous to be near other people. They tortured me severely. A soldier put a water bottle in my mouth while I was sleeping, almost suffocating me."

He sais he was transferred between prisons in handcuffs with his head covered, while the soldiers kicked him and beat him with their rifles. A few days later he was taken to the secret prison for interrogation: "I asked the officer where we were and he told me: 'You're somewhere no one in the universe knows about.'"

Inside the prison he could hear crows, but he was disorientated and was unsure if he was above or below ground.

     Lunch was a spoon and a half of undercooked rice. Dinner was quarter of a fried egg.
- A former inmate

His cell was a bare bed with no covers and a hole for a toilet.

"In the middle of the night, sewage water would flow on us. In the winter they used to turn the air conditioners on and in the summer the heaters."

The food was of such poor quality and quantity he had to eat eggshells to get by. "Lunch was a spoon and a half of undercooked rice. Dinner was quarter of a fried egg."

They could be taken for interrogation at anytime, and sometimes, they said, it would last for over 24 hours.

"More than one prisoner tried to commit suicide because of the terrible conditions," he added.

The former prisoner believed the facility was run by al-Jalma Interrogation Centre, one of Israel's harshest interrogation centres, and built before the Nakba in 1948.


Many international and Israeli media outlets have tried to find the prison's location.

Some sources suggest it is in a fort dating back to the British Mandate in the 1930s, near Hadera in northern Israel. Others that it is located in an old building on a hill in central Israel, surrounded by trees and high walls and protected by a watchtower.

Initially, the facility was used to hold foreign prisoners, especially Lebanese arrested during Israel's military occupation of south Lebanon from 1982 to 2000. However, around 2002 it was turned into an interrogation centre for Palestinians at the peak of the second intifada.

According to the US-based Newsweek magazine, Israeli Gad Kroizer discovered the prison's location. The historian found an old map while researching British police compounds in Palestine in the late 1930s. One of these compounds known as "Meretz" was not found on modern Israeli maps.

In 2004, after publishing an article detailing the prison’s location, Kroizer reportedly received a phone call from a military censor asking why the article had not been submitted for inspection.

When Israeli human rights organisation Hamoked asked the government for information about the location of Palestinian prisoners held in the secret facility, the answers it received were inadequate. However, the organisation has gathered testimonies from former prisoners uncovering the cruel conditions in the detention centre.

The number detained in secret prisons is unknown. A prisoners' rights committee in Nazareth said it was likely that 15 prisoners not documented in Israeli records were currently being held in the prison.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.