UN experts condemn Israel’s ‘sexual assault and violence’ in Gaza

UN experts condemn Israel’s ‘sexual assault and violence’ in Gaza

GENEVA (AFP) : United Nations experts on Monday condemned “unacceptable” violence by the Israeli military against women and children during the ongoing war in Gaza, particularly sexual violence and enforced disappearances.

“We are appalled that women are being targeted by Israel with such vicious, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, seemingly sparing no means to destroy their lives and deny them their fundamental human rights,” the seven special rapporteurs said in a statement.

Special rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. They do not speak on behalf of the United Nations.

The statement pointed to “continued reports of sexual assault and violence against women and girls, including against those detained by Israeli occupation forces.”

They cited UN reports saying women and girls in Gaza were victims of enforced disappearances.

Referring to Hamas, which runs the besieged Palestinian territory, Israel’s mission in Geneva alleged the experts had “once again chosen to ignore Hamas’s systematic militarization of health facilities and civilian infrastructures in the Gaza Strip, voluntarily and actively using the population as human shields.”

“In issuing such a statement, the signatories try to create an alternative narrative, parroting the agenda of a terrorist organization that is actively destroying the lives of the Palestinian population in Gaza,” the Israeli mission said.

The bloodiest-ever Gaza war started after an unprecedented attack on southern Israel by militants from Hamas on October 7.

The attack resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s relentless retaliatory military offensive has killed more than 34,700 people in Gaza — most of them women and children — according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The UN experts said Israel’s widespread destruction of housing in Gaza and the fact that Palestinians were having to live in “precarious” conditions in makeshift tents had a disproportionate impact on women and girls, particularly on their personal security and privacy.

“The treatment of pregnant and lactating women continues to be appalling, with the direct bombardment of hospitals and deliberate denial of access to health care facilities by Israeli snipers,” they added.

More than 180 women per day were giving birth without pain relief, while hundreds of babies have died due to a lack of electricity for incubators, they said.

These conditions have led to a surge in miscarriages, the experts said.

They said Israeli forces had “destroyed Gaza’s largest fertility clinic,” which stored embryos, and estimated that 690,000 women and girls in Gaza were deprived of menstrual hygiene products.

The Israeli mission in Geneva said Israel “categorically rejects unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assaults and violence.”

It said Israel was ready to investigate “any concrete claims of misconduct by its security forces when presented with credible allegations and evidence.”

The UN experts said “the government of Israel has continuously failed to conduct an independent, impartial and effective investigation into the reported crimes.”