Gaza Horror: UN Finds Israeli Forces Guilty of Sexual Abuse and Torture

A UN investigation has revealed brutal acts by the Israeli military targeting men, women, and children, with victims’ families forced to witness.

A UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry has uncovered evidence of egregious sexual violence committed against Palestinian men and women in the Gaza Strip. This adds to a mounting series of reports indicating the issue is widespread and systematic.

The United Nations report, released on June 12 under a Human Rights Council resolution, revealed that Israeli forces “systematically targeted and subjected Palestinians to SGBV [Sexual and Gender-Based Violence] online and in person since October 7, including through forced public nudity, forced public stripping, sexualized torture and abuse, and sexual humiliation and harassment.”

The report noted specific types of sexual violence perpetrated by Israeli soldiers targeting men and boys during ground operations and arrests. Soldiers took videos and photos of Palestinians after stripping them partially or fully naked. The captives were also “coerced to do physical movements while naked.”

Families of men and boys taken captive were made to watch as they were paraded in the street, either fully naked or in their underwear while being subjected to sexual harassment.

The commission concluded that the gender-based violence “directed at Palestinian women was intended to humiliate and degrade the Palestinian population as a whole.” The report asserted that “forced public stripping and nudity and other types of abuse by Israeli military personnel were either ordered or condoned.”

“Sexual violence has been perpetrated throughout the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] during evacuation processes, before or during arrest, at civilian homes and at a shelter for women and girls,” the report stated.

Sexual acts were carried out by force, including under threats, intimidation and other forms of duress, in inherently coercive circumstances due to the armed conflict and the presence of armed Israeli soldiers.”

In February, a UN panel of experts stated there was “credible evidence” of sexual violence against Palestinian women in both Gaza and the West Bank. This followed a UN report noting two cases of rape and various other cases of sexual abuse against Palestinian women.

“We might not know for a long time what the actual number of victims are,” said Reem Alsalem, the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women and girls.

A recently released UNRWA report included testimony from a 34-year-old Palestinian woman detained in the Sde Teiman detention center, a makeshift interrogation facility for detainees seized from Gaza:

They asked the soldiers to spit on me, saying ‘she is a b****, she is from Gaza.’ They were beating us as we moved and saying they would put pepper on our sensitive parts [genitals]. They pulled us, beat us, they took us in the bus to the Damon prison after five days. A male soldier took off our hijabs and they pinched us and touched our bodies, including our breasts. We were blindfolded and we were feeling them touching us, pushing our heads to the bus. We started to squeeze together to try to protect ourselves from the touching. They said ‘b****, b****.’ They told the soldiers to take off their shoes and slap our faces with them.”

The testimonies in the UNRWA report correlate with those collected by The New York Times in their recent expose on the Sde Teiman facility, which included allegations of rape, including with metal rods, and one male detainee dying after experiencing anal rape as a form of sexual torture.

Various other accusations of rape have been recorded, including those from Canadian physicians working in Gaza, with one claiming a woman was “raped for two days until she lost her ability to speak.” There has been no extensive investigation into the mountains of evidence and allegations of rape of Palestinians. In contrast, unsubstantiated Israeli government claims of a mass rape campaign on October 7 have received significant international attention.

The newly issued UN report allocated roughly 3,400 words to its section on the singular day of October 7 and approximately the same amount to its segment on crimes committed by Israeli Security Forces until December 31, 2023, in their Advanced Unedited version of the report. The section on crimes committed since October 7 is roughly the same in length but contains 65 footnotes, while the section on crimes committed on October 7 has only 24. The report drew strong conclusions about both Hamas and Israel.

Feature photo | A Palestinian girl checks a UN school that was bombed by Israel in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, on June 6, 2024. NurPhoto | AP

Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47