UN experts alarmed by IDF treatment of Palestinian women and girls in Gaza

The onslaught in Gaza has disproportionately affected women and children, who constitute approximately 70 percent of the over 29,000 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

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A team of United Nations experts has urgently called for a comprehensive investigation into distressing reports that Israeli forces have engaged in the arbitrary detention, sexual abuse, and execution of Palestinian women and girls in the Gaza Strip. This demand follows distressing accounts of violence against women and children seeking refuge or attempting to flee conflict zones.

The experts, including Reem Alsalem, the special rapporteur on violence against women and girls; Francesca Albanese, the special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories; and members of the working group on discrimination against women and girls, expressed profound shock at the alleged deliberate targeting of these vulnerable groups. “We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing,” they stated in a recent announcement.

Allegations have surfaced that some Palestinian women and children were executed while holding white pieces of cloth, a universal symbol of truce, by the Israeli army or affiliated forces. Reports from the ground indicate a disturbing trend of sexual violence against women and girls in detention, including strip searches by male officers and instances of rape. “Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces,” the UN experts elaborated on the severity of the situation.

The onslaught in Gaza has disproportionately affected women and children, who constitute approximately 70% of the over 29,000 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the conflict escalated on October 7. The Israeli military’s extensive detention campaign across Gaza has ensnared thousands, including numerous women and children, many of whom have recounted torture and other forms of maltreatment.

Detainees have reported a range of abuses, from being held in cages exposed to the elements to physical violence. Tamam al-Aswad, a Palestinian mother arrested in December and released earlier this month, shared her harrowing experience with Reuters, detailing how an Israeli soldier assaulted her after she refused to kiss an Israeli flag. “An Israeli soldier slammed my head into a wall and hit me on the back,” al-Aswad recounted.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has corroborated these accounts, estimating that over 3,000 Gazans have been detained since October. The organization has received testimonies confirming the abuse and threats of sexual violence faced by Palestinian women in Israeli custody.

In light of these allegations, UN experts have recognized “credible allegations of egregious human rights violations” against women and girls in Gaza. They emphasized the need for accountability, stating, “Those responsible for these apparent crimes must be held accountable and victims and their families are entitled to full redress and justice.”

As the international community grapples with these alarming reports, the call for a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation grows louder. The experts have stressed the importance of holding those responsible to account and ensuring justice for the victims and their families.

Reem Alsalem remarked, “The sheer scale and nature of these violations against Palestinian women and girls in Gaza are unconscionable. We must act swiftly to bring justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable.”

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Alexis Sterling is a seasoned War and Human Rights Reporter with a passion for reporting the truth in some of the world's most tumultuous regions. With a background in journalism and a keen interest in international affairs, Alexis's reporting is grounded in a commitment to human rights and a deep understanding of the complexities of global conflicts. Her work seeks to give voice to the voiceless and bring to light the human stories behind the headlines. Alexis is dedicated to responsible and engaged journalism, constantly striving to inform and educate the public on critical issues of war and human rights across the globe.

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