UN Special Committee on Israeli practices in occupied territories concludes field mission


A UN Special Committee* appointed by the General Assembly to investigate Israeli practices in Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said it was horrified by violations against Palestinians in Israeli custody and levels of impunity for Israeli soldiers engaged in dehumanising, cruel and humiliating behaviour towards Palestinians, including women and children.

“Security personnel publicly and shamelessly share photos on social media platforms that violate the privacy and intimate sphere of Palestinian women, aimed at mocking, shaming and humiliating them,” the Special Committee said in an end of mission statement concluding a visit to Amman.

“Multiple stakeholders reported a stark increase in sexual harassment, sexual abuse, the threat of rape, and rape itself, including with foreign objects, against men, women, and even children, and intimidation through the use of dogs by Israeli security forces,” the Special Committee said.

The Committee expressed concern about the impact of Israeli forces destroying the health care system systematically and comprehensively in Gaza, forcing women to give birth in dire conditions. It was alarmed to hear that the rate of miscarriages in Gaza has drastically increased. “This comes partly as a direct result of Israel’s sustained bombing of healthcare facilities, and killings of medical personnel,” it said.

The Special Committee was briefed that Palestinians being held in prisons and detention centres, including thousands of detainees from Gaza, have little to no access to family, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), or legal and procedural safeguards guaranteed under international law.

“The steep rise in cases of abuse filed against Israeli security officers, indicates that a systematic scheme of inhumane treatment is being executed as State policy to deprive Palestinians of their liberty,” it said.

Condemning the horrific war crimes that took place on 7 October 2023, the Committee also held equal condemnation for the Israeli State reaction. “The violent assault on Gaza has been indiscriminate, disproportionate, and callous in nature, cutting off life essential resources, in order to subjugate, dehumanise and collectively punish the Palestinian civilian population,” the Committee said, expressing extreme concern about the impact the war in Gaza is having on future generations on both sides.

The Special Committee spent significant time at UNRWA’s Baqa’a Camp for Gazan refugees in Amman, meeting school children, medical staff and educators. “To date 193 UNRWA staff have been killed. Their families and loved ones have also perished in the continuous bombardment of Gaza,” the Committee said. “The international community must stand in solidarity with UNRWA through political and financial support, and increase funding through the UN regular budget,” it called, stressing UNRWA’s mandate is inherently linked to the realization of Palestinians’ rights under international law.

The Committee called on Israel and Palestinian armed groups to urgently agree to a lasting ceasefire, release all hostages as well as detainees held arbitrarily, provide unfettered ICRC access to those in detention, and open all border crossings to allow life-saving humanitarian aid into Gaza at scale.

“Israel must end its assault on the international rules-based system,” the Committee stressed. “We call on all States and businesses providing assistance to prolong the occupation to cease these activities or risk being complicit in serious international human rights, humanitarian and criminal law violations, including possible genocide.”

The Committee expressed regret that Israel did not respond to its request for consultations or provide access to Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory or the occupied Syrian Golan.

“Israel’s persistent refusal to hold credible dialogue with the UN Committee illustrates its unwillingness to be held accountable for the actions and policies it pursues in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the Special Committee said.

“The occupation of Palestine, and the apartheid system of injustice that serves it, cannot continue if there is to ever be a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” the Special Committee said.

The Committee will present its next report to the General Assembly in October 2024.

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