Lebanese activists block the road leading to the Egyptian embassy in Beirut during a protest on Monday against the closure of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.—AFP
Lebanese activists block the road leading to the Egyptian embassy in Beirut during a protest on Monday against the closure of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.—AFP

GENEVA: United Nations experts expressed alarm on Monday over credible allegations of egregious human rights violations to which Palestinian women and girls continue to be subjected in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, according to a press release issued by the office of the UN High Commisioner for Human Rights .

Independent experts work on a voluntary basis. They are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

Palestinian women and girls have been arbitrarily executed in Gaza, often together with family members, including their children. “We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extra-judicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing. Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces,” the experts said.

They expressed concern about the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls, including human rights defenders, journalists and humanitarian workers, in Gaza and the occupied West Bank since Oct 7.

Many have reportedly been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, denied menstruation pads, food and medicine, and severely beaten. On at least one occasion, Palestinian women detained in Gaza were allegedly kept in a cage in the rain and cold, without 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.

“At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence,” the experts said. They also noted that photos of female detainees in degrading circumstances were also reportedly taken by the Israeli army and uploaded online.

The experts expressed concern that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children, including girls, have reportedly gone missing after contact with the Israeli army 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,” they said.

“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.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2024

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