Rape, torture, arrests... women in Gaza face “immense abuse”, says the UN

According to reports received by the United Nations, Palestinian women and girls have been arbitrarily executed in Gaza, often with family members, including their children.

Experts have expressed grave concern over the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls, including human rights defenders, journalists and aid workers, in Gaza and the West Bank since the start of the conflict , on October 7, following deadly Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

Interview with Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Women react after their building was hit by a strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, February 8, 2024. AP - Fatima Shbair

By: Clea Broadhurst Follow


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RFI: Can you tell us a little about what is happening at the moment in Gaza for these young women?

Francesca Albanese:

 The situation is very violent, from all points of view.

Following the report that we provided to the Israeli government, we requested an immediate investigation, because we received complaints directly or indirectly, that is, also through lawyers who work in the rights sector of man in Palestine, relating to torture, sexual threats, rape.

I can't go into details because these people took a risk by speaking out.

This is not easy, either for those in Gaza or for those still in detention.

Read alsoThe UN warns of the situation of women, the first victims of the conflict in Gaza

I invite you to read the urgent appeal addressed to us and to the Special Rapporteur on the prevention of torture.

This report was submitted by Israeli organizations and concerns the torture and mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees since October 7.

It's horrible what's happening and we, like these organizations, have the impression that this is a systemic situation of violence and harassment against detainees.

Already, before October 7, it was quite worrying.

Now it is reaching worrying proportions.

Your report talks about the degrading treatment of hundreds of young women, whether in Gaza or the West Bank...

There was already a strong dehumanization of Palestinians before October 7.

But since October 7, the Israeli army has abandoned all forms of restrictions.

Hundreds of women were captured in Gaza among the 3,000 prisoners who were taken, especially when the Israeli army entered northern Gaza.

Because they consider all those who did not obey the forced evacuation order as terrorists... Among the women who were arrested or blocked, there were doctors, nurses, journalists and no one was really spared.

They were exposed, they were subjected to body searches by soldiers, men.

It is not normal.

It could have happened before, but it was the exception, not the rule.

There are cases where women were forced to watch the execution of their families.

When they were arrested, they were photographed, sometimes naked, in very embarrassing and denigrating positions.

There were a lot of complaints, threats of rape, such as: “ 

We are going to rape you, and your sisters, and your mother

 ,” etc.

But there were also rapes.

This isn't just something that happens to women.

There are also situations of rape against men.

The situation is very serious, there are immense abuses.

That's why we need an investigation.

They are held in centers where it is very difficult to enter.

And all this is not a natural disaster, it is the decision of the army and the Israeli government.

You request an investigation.

Can you tell us why, and who could carry out these investigations? 

There is an independent commission which is supposed to investigate what is happening in the occupied territory and Israel, they have a much broader mandate than mine for example.

I would be willing to carry out this investigation, but as you know, I am prohibited from entering the occupied Palestinian territory.

This is also the case for detention centers in Israel.

We must ensure that the ICRC enters all detention centers and also that the rights of Palestinians are respected.

Since October 7, there has been an intensification of significant violations that were already plaguing the detention system.

The second report I presented to the United Nations was on detention and already there was a catastrophic reality from a human rights point of view.

And it also revealed responsibility for war crimes, the way Palestinians were treated in prison.

Today the situation is really out of control. 

How will living conditions in Gaza change in the future?  

The Palestinians in Gaza are truly being reduced to an unprecedented inhumane condition.

Some 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza have already been killed.

Almost 13,000 of them are children and 70% of the victims are only women and children.

Around 80% of Gaza's civilian infrastructure, either no longer existing or no longer functional, has been destroyed.

This is why even the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled on the possibility of the risk of genocide.

What Israel has been carrying out for five months looks entirely like genocidal conduct, aimed at eliminating Palestinians from Gaza.

That's what they said, that's what they're doing.

Even if they say that their goal is to drive out Hamas, the problem is that Israel considers the entire population of Gaza to be its accomplice.

It's a very violent situation.

We have already passed the point of no return in my opinion, but we must block Israel.

Of course, hostilities must stop, but this is not going to happen with words of condemnation from Western states, it is time to take concrete measures to stop them.

The risk is that they will drive out the Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt and the Palestinians from the West Bank, little by little, as they have been doing for 57 years.

And more.

Read alsoIsrael-Hamas War: in Gaza, a critical situation for pregnant women


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