Palestinians sexually assaulted, beaten in Israeli prisons: UN report

March 6, 2024

By Al Mayadeen English

Palestinian women at a rally by pro-Palestinian activists to demand a ceasefire in Gaza, at Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 11, 2023. (AP)

Source: News websites

The newly released UNRWA report illustrates a graphic picture of the violence and sexual abuse subjected upon Palestinian detainees in Israeli detention centers.

A new internal report by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) details the violence against Palestinian detainees in Israeli detention centers, such as beatings, dog attacks, extended use of stress positions, and sexual assault.

Based on interviews of over 1,000 Palestinian detainees released at the “Kerem Shalom” crossing point since December, in the presence of UNRWA staff, the report said that there were 29 children as young as six (26 boys and three girls), 80 women, and 21 UNRWA staff, some of whom had chronic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or cancer. 

“Detainees reported being taken on trucks to large makeshift ‘military barracks’ housing 100-120 people each, where they were held, often for weeks at a time, in between periods of interrogation at a nearby location,” the UNRWA document said.

“Methods of ill-treatment reported included physical beatings, forced stress positions for extended periods of time, threats of harm to detainees and their families, attacks by dogs, insults to personal dignity and humiliation such as being made to act like animals or getting urinated on, use of loud music and noises, deprivation of water, food, sleep and toilets, denial of the right to practice their religion (to pray) and prolonged use of tightly locked handcuffs causing open wounds and friction injuries.”

“The beatings included blunt force trauma to the head, shoulders, kidneys, neck, back and legs with metal bars and the butts of guns and boots, in some cases resulting in broken ribs, separated shoulders and lasting injuries,” the report added.

“While in an off-site location, several individuals reported being forced into cages and attacked by dogs, with some individuals including a child exhibiting dog bite wounds on release.”

Back to the ‘review drawer’

The report included allegations of widespread sexual assault, but rape was not mentioned, although it is a known fact of it being a tool of torture in Israeli prisons and despite a previous UN report stating otherwise. Women reported being groped while blindfolded, and many male prisoners said they were beaten in the genitals.

“Another detainee reported being made to sit on an electrical probe, causing burns to his anus, the scars for which could still be seen weeks later,” the UNRWA report said. “He indicated that another detainee had also suffered the same treatment and died as a result of his infected wounds.”

The Israeli occupation forces jumped to deny the report and its claims, in a statement provided to The Guardian

In the statement, the Israeli army denied “general and unsubstantiated claims regarding sexual abuse of detainees” in its detention facilities,” calling the accusations “another cynical attempt to create a false equivalency with the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war by Hamas.”

The statement denied any use of sleep deprivation and claimed that music was only played “at a low volume in a specific place where the detainees are waiting for questioning (in a place where guards are also present), in order to prevent the detainees from talking to each other while waiting for the questioning,” it argued. 

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The IOF continued to claim that the “concrete complaints” were “forwarded to the relevant authorities for review” – but it is quite known that the term “review” is just lip service. 

On February 19, UN experts raised concern over “credible allegations” of grave human rights violations against Palestinian women and girls in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

According to the information, Palestinian women and girls were arbitrarily executed in Gaza along with their family members, even while fleeing, and, on at least one occasion, women detained were allegedly kept in a cage in the rain and cold, without food.

The experts expressed they were “particularly distressed” about reports of detained women and girls being subjected to numerous forms of sexual assault, like being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers.

At least two female Palestinian detainees were raped, while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual abuse.

The experts expressed concern that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children, including girls, have reportedly gone missing after contact with the Israeli occupation in Gaza. “There are disturbing reports of at least one female infant forcibly transferred by the Israeli army into ‘Israel,’ and of children being separated from their parents, whose whereabouts remain unknown,” the experts said.

See this: Exclusive to Al Mayadeen: Testimonies on pregnant women from Gaza

“We remind the Government of Israel of its obligation to uphold the right to life, safety, health, and dignity of Palestinian women and girls and to ensure that no one is subjected to violence, torture, ill-treatment or degrading treatment, including sexual violence,” they added.

IOF discredited by their own

This report coincides with the controversial New York Times report in January that claimed Israeli women were being raped and assaulted by the Palestinian Resistance. 

The Israeli family involved in a key case mentioned in the October 7 New York Times report on alleged sexual violence by Hamas fighters has disavowed the published story, asserting that reporters manipulated their statements, Press TV reported, citing Israeli media.

Then, just yesterday, the allegations by the NYT were shut down by the spokesperson for the Kibbutz “Be’eri” identified as the location of the attack.

Two out of the three victims mentioned in NYT’s marquee exposé, which alleged that Hamas had deliberately weaponized sexual violence during the October 7 attacks, were not, in fact, victims of sexual assault, according to the Kibbutz’s spokesperson.

The rejection by spokesperson Michal Paikin undermines even more the NYT‘s credibility of its article: “‘Screams Without Words’: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7,” in which it described the recounts of three alleged victims of sexual assault for whom it gave specific biographical information.

Two of three women have been said to not be victims. 

Read more: Food blogger, Israeli film director scripted Hamas rape story for NYT

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