UN experts demand investigation into claims Israeli forces killed, raped and sexually assaulted Palestinian women and girls

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United Nations experts have called for an investigation into what they described as “credible allegations of egregious human rights violations” against Palestinian women and girls in Gaza and the West Bank by Israeli forces.

The allegations include extrajudicial killing, arbitrary detention, degrading treatment, rape and sexual violence, according to a statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released on Monday. It did not detail how they did their fact-finding, but they referred to photos of female detainees in degrading circumstances reportedly taken by Israeli troops and uploaded online.

Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva also said it “forcefully rejects” what it called “despicable and unfounded claims” by the group of UN experts.

It said authorities had received no complaints of abuse but stressed “Israel remains ready to investigate any concrete claims of misconduct by its security forces when presented with credible allegations and evidence.”

The experts, who are part of the largest body for independent fact-finding and monitoring in the UN human rights system, expressed their concerns over the “arbitrary detention” of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls since the Hamas attacks of October 7.

“Many [Palestinian women and girls] have reportedly been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, denied menstruation pads, food and medicine, and severely beaten,” the statement said. “On at least one occasion, Palestinian women detained in Gaza were allegedly kept in a cage in the rain and cold, without food.”

The UN experts further said they were distressed by reports of “multiple forms of sexual assault” against Palestinian women and girls in detention, including “being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers.”

“At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence,” the statement added, calling on Israel to uphold the rights and dignity of Palestinian women and girls.

The UN and human rights organizations were criticized for being slow to denounce the reports of rape and mutilation against Israelis – mostly girls and women but also men – by Hamas fighters on October 7.

The UN agency UN Women released a statement in December condemning the attacks saying it was “alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks.”

Responding on Monday to the UN experts’ call for an investigation, Israel again accused the UN of remaining “silent on the horrific sexual violence and gender-based violence perpetrated by Hamas on and since October 7.”

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