Israel’s systematic sexual abuse and torture of Palestinians detailed in new reports

UN-backed commission finds multiple instances of Palestinian women being publicly stripped of clothes and veils

An Israeli soldier taking aim through a window during operations in the Gaza Strip, 6 June 2024 (AFP)

An Israeli soldier taking aim through a window during operations in the Gaza Strip, 6 June 2024 (AFP)

By MEE staff

Published date: 12 June 2024 

Recently published reports have revealed the systematic sexual abuse and torture of Palestinian men, women and children by Israeli forces during the assault on Gaza.

On Wednesday, a report published by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry concluded that the frequency and severity of sexual and gender-based violations meant that they were likely “part of [Israeli security forces] operating procedures”.

The inquiry detailed multiple instances of Israeli forces publicly stripping Palestinian women of their clothes and veils, and subjecting them to sexual harassment in front of their families during ground operations in Gaza.

The commission noted that “Palestinian men and boys have been disproportionally affected and victimised on many grounds”, and heard several reports of male victims being subjected to sexual violence in Gaza and the West Bank by Israeli forces.

This included physical and mental abuse while being undressed, being forced to walk naked between checkpoints, and being coerced into undressing in front of family members.

The commission added that these acts were often filmed and photographed by the soldiers themselves.

Witnesses also reported mistreatment and forced public nudity during Israeli military raids in hospitals.

One account described how, during a raid of Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital in November, Israeli forces took all the men and teenage boys outside and forced them to undress.

The commission said that the increasingly sexual nature of Israeli aggression was likely driven by a desire to humiliate Palestinians in retaliation for the Hamas-led attacks on 7 October, which killed more than 1,100 people.

The worst four days of my life

three-month investigation by the New York Times published on 6 June also revealed systematic sexual abuse and torture perpetrated against Palestinians detained at Sde Teiman military base in southern Israel.

One detainee, Fadi Bakr, a law student from Gaza City, described his four-day long interrogation as “the worst four days of my life”. 

Bakr reported that, prior to his interrogation, he was taken to a “disco-room” where music was blasted at such a volume that his ears began to bleed. 

Another detainee testified that during interrogation he was forced to sit on a metal stick which penetrated his rectum. His account closely resembled another from an Unrwa report that cited a detainee testifying that interrogators “made me sit on something like a hot metal stick and it felt like fire”.

Former detainees also reported that they had been punched, kicked and beaten with batons, rifle butts and a hand-held metal detector while in custody. 

One victim said that his ribs broke after being beaten with a rifle.

Seven detainees said they had been forced to wear nappies during interrogation, while another three said they had received electric shocks.

Eight former detainees described how they were blindfolded, handcuffed with zip ties and stripped naked except for their underwear, during their capture. 

They were then herded into military trucks with other half-naked men and transported to Sde Teiman.

Israel dismissed the allegations as “evidently inaccurate or completely unfounded”.

Middle East Eye was not able to independently verify the reports, but most of the testimonies were corroborated by hundreds of interviews conducted by Unrwa, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

According to officers at the base who spoke to the New York Times, of the 4,000 detainees brought to the makeshift interrogation centre since October, 35 have died.

Tortured with dogs and electricity

The reports also chime with testimony reported by Middle East Eye in March from Palestinians detained by Israeli forces.

They told MEE they were physically tortured with dogs and electricity, subjected to mock executions, and held in humiliating and degrading conditions.

One man described how he had been handcuffed, blindfolded and detained in a metal cage for 42 days. During interrogations, he said he had been given electric shocks, and had been set upon by army dogs that scratched and bit him.

Other victims described how they were also attacked by dogs, doused with cold water, denied food and water, deprived of sleep, and subjected to constant loud music. 

Another man described being blindfolded, stripped naked, and hung by his arms during interrogations in which he was repeatedly beaten and burnt with cigarettes.

All four men described being forced to strip naked and being constantly beaten and abused by Israeli soldiers during their weeks-long detentions.

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