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A 46-year-old mentally ill man was allegedly held by his parents in the basement of their northern Israel home for at least five years, police said on Sunday.

Police had received complaints from the family's neighbors saying that they heard screaming at nights. When social services corroborated the reports, police last week raided the house in a northern community and removed the man from confinement.

The man was transferred to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for four days, and has since been transferred to a care facility.

"The man that arrived had a long beard and long hair, he was covered in a thick layer of dirt and he reeked of someone who had not washed himself for a very long time," a hospital spokesman said, adding, "It took an entire hour to wash all the dirt off him."

"He also had white skin that looked as though he had not seen the light of day or been in the sun for many years," the source added. "During the entire time that he was hospitalized he made no human contact, and only stared at the floor uttering indistinct words."

The source told Haaretz, "On the man's first day in hospital he sat on the bed, his hair combed back and after he was served a plate of food he held it and did not know what to do with it."

"Eventually the nurse started to feed him and take care of him. He just didn't know how to use cutlery or how to eat and wash," the source said.

"He is clearly a man who is mentally ill and needs to be institutionalized," he added.

The neighbors who reported the incident to the police said that they had known the man in the past as a person with special needs, but after he disappeared they assumed he had been transferred to a special care facility.

"I haven't seen him for more than ten years," the neighbor said. "Four and half years ago I visited their house and I saw him, and I was shocked. He looked neglected, white as snow, and his brother held his hand while they took for a round in the sun. They treated him as if he was a leper who they didn't know what to do with, so they locked him up."

"He was helpless, and he constantly screamed - perhaps from pain, or loneliness - but nobody really knows what happened there," the neighbor added.

Following the raid, police arrested the father for questioning. He was subsequently released to house arrest pending charges.