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UN experts condemn ‘credible’ reports of executions, sexual assault by Israeli soldiers

A group of United Nations human rights experts denounced the Israeli military on Monday for “credible” allegations of execution and sexual assault against Palestinians in Gaza.

The independent experts affiliated with the U.N. Human Rights Council said the allegations constitute “egregious human rights violations,” adding to criticisms of the Israeli war effort in Gaza as its military reportedly prepares a ground invasion of Rafah.

Specifically, the experts said they were shocked by reports of the “deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing” of Palestinian women and children in Gaza by Israeli soldiers, including those who were holding white cloth or fleeing.

They also condemned the “arbitrary detention” of hundreds of Palestinian women and children with “inhuman and degrading treatment,” including going without medical supplies and food.

“We are particularly distressed by reports that Palestinian women and girls in detention have also been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault, such as being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers,” the experts said. “At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence.”

The release adds that some photographs of women in degrading circumstances had been distributed online by Israeli soldiers.

Additionally, the experts said they were made aware of the separation of Palestinian children from their parents, and at least one case of a Palestinian infant being transported to Israel away from its family.

“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,” the experts said.

The group also demanded an independent probe into the allegations.

The experts included Reem Alsalem, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; and members of the U.N.’s working group on discrimination against women and girls.

Israel’s mission to the United Nations rejected the claims put forward by the group in a statement on Monday, claiming the experts had failed to show similar concern about claims of sexual violence by Hamas militants who invaded Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people.

“It is clear that the co-signatories are motivated not by the truth but by their hatred for Israel and its people,” Israel’s statement said. “The State of Israel will continue to abide by its obligations under international law.”

The release warns that the allegations could constitute “grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” and result in criminal prosecutions for the perpetrators.

“Those responsible for these apparent crimes must be held accountable and victims and their families are entitled to full redress and justice,” the experts added.

U.N. bodies have alleged abuses against Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli military for decades, including claims of executions since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war in October. In December, a U.N. body demanded the Israeli government investigate allegations of a mass execution of 11 unarmed Palestinians in Gaza.

While the Biden administration continues to support Israel’s war on Hamas, it is urging the Israeli military to evacuate civilians from Rafah before any invasion of the area, which is temporarily home to more than a million displaced Palestinians.

More than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict since October, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and nearly the entirety of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has been displaced from their homes and faces food shortages, the U.N. said.

A U.S. proposal in the U.N. Security Council on Monday encouraged a short-term humanitarian cease-fire in the conflict to help aid reach civilians, and for Hamas to free remaining hostages; the group is still holding about 100 hostages out of some 240 captured during the October terrorist attack on Israel.

Israeli leaders have resisted calls for a cease-fire without the return of hostages, and talks in Cairo last week broke down. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said an invasion of Gaza is absolutely necessary to the country’s aims of wiping out Hamas.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), a U.N. body, said Friday that an Israeli invasion of Rafah would “‘exponentially increase’ what is already a humanitarian nightmare,” but declined to order Israel not to advance. The court is already investigating allegations that the Israeli military is committing a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, a suit brought by South Africa last month.

The Hill has reached out to the Israeli Embassy in Washington for comment.

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