The Latest | UN report says there's credible evidence of sexual violence during Oct. 7 Hamas attack | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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The Latest | UN report says there's credible evidence of sexual violence during Oct. 7 Hamas attack

Israeli soldiers are seen near the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel, Monday, March 4, 2024. The army is battling Palestinian militants across Gaza in the war ignited by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack into Israel. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Original Publication Date March 04, 2024 - 3:21 AM

A United Nations report has found credible allegations that sexual assaults took place during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel.

A team led by the U.N. special envoy for sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, found “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas committed rape and “sexualized torture.” Patten presented the report Monday at the United Nations.

The U.N. team did not meet with any victims of sexual violence “despite concerted efforts to encourage them to come forward,” and Patten said much of the evidence was circumstantial. The team conducted interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Oct. 7 attacks, released hostages, health providers and others, Patten said.

The report comes nearly five months after the Oct. 7 attacks, which left about 1,200 people dead and some 250 others taken hostage.

Israel’s war against Hamas has since laid waste to the Gaza Strip, killing more than 30,000 people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The U.N. says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million population faces starvation.

A top member of Israel's wartime Cabinet has been meeting with U.S. officials in Washington while talks are underway in Egypt to broker a cease-fire in Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next week.

Currently:

Israel escalates its criticism of a U.N. agency in Gaza. It says 450 of its workers are militants.

— Netanyahu leaned on his top rival to help unify Israel. Now, Benny Gantz is more popula r.

— A 4-year-old Gaza boy lost his arm – and his family. Half a world away, he’s getting a second chance.

Strikes along Israel-Lebanon border kill 4 people as U.S. envoy visits Beirut to press a cease-fire.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here's the latest:

UNRWA SAYS HUNDREDS OF PALESTINIANS DETAINED BY ISRAEL REPORT MISTREATMENT

UNITED NATIONS – Hundreds of Palestinians detained by Israel after Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attacks have reported a broad range of ill-treatment from having pictures taken of them naked to being threatened with electrocution, the head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday.

Phillipe Lazzarini told a news conference his agency, known as UNRWA, had put together an unpublished internal report based on information from detainees returning to Gaza “completely traumatized by the ordeal.”

He said some had been detained for a couple of weeks, some for several months, and UNRWA provided them with food, dignity kits and clothes and debriefed them on their experiences.

“We heard stories of people not only having been systematically humiliated,” the UNRWA commissioner general said. “People have been being obliged to be pictured naked,”

Lazzarini said they have also been subjected to verbal and psychological abuse, there has been “a threat of use of electrocution,” as well as :a lot of sleep deprivation or use of extreme noise to prevent people to sleep.”

The New York Times, which first reported the story, said the detainees included men and women aged 6 to 82. It quoted the report as saying some detainees died in detention.

U.N. ENVOY SAYS ‘REASONABLE GROUNDS’ TO BELIEVE HAMAS RAPED WOMEN ON OCT. 7

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. envoy focusing on sexual violence in conflict says there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas committed rape, “sexualized torture,” and other cruel and inhuman treatment of women during its surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

There are also “reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing,” said Pramila Patten, who visited Israel and the West Bank from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14 with a nine-member team.

In a report released Monday, she said the team “found clear and convincing information” that some hostages have been subjected to the same forms of conflict-related sexual violence including rape and “sexualized torture.”

Patten’s report said the team’s visit “was neither intended nor mandated to be investigative in nature.” While team members held 33 meetings with Israeli institutions and conducted interview with 34 people including survivors and witnesses of the Oct. 7 attacks, released hostages, health providers and others, she said it was not able to meet with any victims of sexual violence “despite concerted efforts to encourage them to come forward.”

Based on the information it gathered, Patten said, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred during the 7 October attacks in multiple locations across Gaza periphery, including rape and gang rape, in at least three locations.” She named the Nova Music Festival, Route 232, the key route from the festival and kibbutz Reim.

Across various locations, she said, the team found “that several fully naked or partially naked bodies from the waist down were recovered – mostly women – with hands tied and shot multiple times, often in the head.”

ISRAEL SAYS 450 UNRWA EMPLOYEES ARE MEMBERS OF MILITANT GROUPS IN GAZA

JERUSALEM — Israel ramped up its criticism of the embattled U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees Monday, saying 450 employees of UNRWA were members of militant groups in the Gaza Strip, though it provided no evidence to back up its accusation.

Major funders have withheld hundreds of millions of dollars from the agency since Israel accused 12 of its employees of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 people and left about 250 others hostage in Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.

UNRWA, which employs roughly 13,000 people in Gaza, is the biggest aid provider in Gaza.

The accusations Monday were a significant escalation in the attacks on the agency. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, Israel’s chief military spokesperson, did not provide names or other evidence to back up the vastly increased number of UNRWA employees it said were militants.

“Over 450 UNWRA employees are military operatives in terror groups in Gaza — 450. This is no mere coincidence. This is systematic. There is no claiming, we did not know,” Hagari said.

Juliette Touma, director of communications for UNRWA, had no direct comment on the Israeli allegations.

“UNRWA encourages any entity that has any information on the very serious allegations against UNRWA staff to share it with the ongoing U.N. investigation,” she said.

ISRAELI STRIKES IN LEBANON KILL 3 HEZBOLLAH MEDICS

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s state media says an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon killed three paramedics from the health arm of the militant group Hezbollah.

The strike Monday afternoon hit the office of Hezbollah’s Islamic Health Society in the Lebanese border village of Odaisseh.

The attack came hours after a missile strike blamed on the militants in Lebanon killed at least one foreign worker and wounded others in northern Israel.

The deadly violence Monday came as a senior U.S. envoy visited Beirut and warned that a Gaza truce wouldn’t necessarily apply to conflict along the Lebanon-Israel border. Amos Hochstein urged the parties to reach a lasting cease-fire at the border following meetings Monday with Lebanese leaders.

Since the Israel-Hamas war started, Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israel almost daily, displacing thousands of people and spiking fear that the conflict may spread through the region. In northern Israel, 60,000 people have evacuated, the Israeli government says.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, more than 215 Hezbollah fighters and nearly 40 civilians were killed on the Lebanese side while in Israel, nine soldiers and 10 civilians were killed in the attacks.

UNITED STATES FACES BACKLASH AT U.N. FOR VETOING CEASE-FIRE

UNITED NATIONS – The United States is facing intense criticism for its veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, with many countries pointing to 2.2 million Palestinians in desperate need of food and children dying of starvation.

Under a General Assembly resolution adopted in 2022, any country that vetoes a resolution has to explain why. U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood told the 193-member world body the United States does not believe the resolution “would have resulted in a cease-fire” – and could disrupt ongoing negotiations for a temporary cease-fire.

He said the U.S. is continuing to negotiate on its proposed resolution for a temporary cease-fire, release of hostages taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel, and spurring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

It would also condemn Hamas for the “horrific attacks,” something the U.N. has not done, which Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan decried along with the U.N.’s failure to condemn alleged sexual violence against women during its invasion. Erdan showed the assembly brief videos from released hostages, first responders and law enforcement officials and asked, “What if these were your daughters, your granddaughters? Would you continue to ignore them or would you demand immediate action?”.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, accused Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people, saying “Israel has unleashed death against 2.3 million Palestinians under multiple forms – indiscriminate bombing, summary executions, disease dehydration and starvation.”

Mansour spoke of two Palestinian children he named who died of malnutrition, one just two months old who died Monday. “Look at our children, look at yours, and look what agony they are enduring,” he said, his voice breaking. “This has to stop, for God’s sake.”

He said Israel must be held accountable and asked every country and its workers not to load ships and planes with weapons and ammunition going to Israel. And he said “the entire enterprise of settlements and settlers should be sanctioned -- don’t allow a single of one of them to get a visa to visit any of your countries.”

Assembly President Dennis Francis, who opened the meeting which has about 75 countries scheduled to speak, called the situation in Gaza, “Catastrophic! Unconscionable! Shameful!” He reiterated the demand by the assembly — where there are no vetoes — for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

BELGIUM JOINS AID AIRDROP EFFORTS FOR GAZA

BRUSSELS — Belgium has decided to airdrop aid into Gaza and dispatched a military transport plane on Monday to begin delivering emergency support, after U.S. cargo aircraft dropped food over the weekend.

The foreign ministry said that “due to the difficulties of access and the complex situation on the ground, the Belgian government has approved an airdrop operation for emergency aid.”

Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder in a post on X, formerly Twitter, said “40 military personnel will be deployed to carry out several drops in the coming days.”

The A400M transport plane was due to travel first to Jordan, which is coordinating efforts to supply aid by air, and from there be used to drop food and “hygiene products” into Gaza.

Since the war began, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.

The U.N. says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face starvation. Aid officials have said that airdrops are not an efficient means of distributing aid and are a measure of last resort.

3 RED SEA UNDERWATER DATA CABLES CUT AS HOUTHI ATTACKS CONTINUE

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Three underwater sea cables providing internet and telecommunications around the world have been cut in the Red Sea as the waterway remains a target of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, officials said Monday.

A statement by Hong Kong-based HGC Global Communications acknowledged the cuts but did not say what caused the lines to be severed.

There has been concern about the cables being targeted in the Houthi campaign, which the rebels describe as an effort to pressure Israel to end its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Houthis have denied attacking the cables.

HGC Global Communications said the cuts had affected 25% of the traffic flowing through the Red Sea. It described the Red Sea route as crucial for data moving from Asia onward to Europe and said it had begun rerouting traffic.

PALESTINIANS SAY A 16-YEAR-OLD WAS KILLED IN WEST BANK

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Health Ministry says Israeli forces killed a 16-year-old in the West Bank, the second Palestinian minor to be killed in the occupied territory in recent days.

The Israeli military said security forces conducting a six-hour operation in Ramallah opened fire after Palestinians hurled rocks and firebombs at them. It said a female member of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police was lightly wounded.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the deceased as Mustafa Abu Shalbak. On Saturday, Mohammed Zeid, 13, was shot dead by Israeli forces north of Ramallah, according to the ministry. The army said its forces opened fire after someone tried to throw a firebomb at them.

Violence has surged in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that sparked the war in Gaza. Israeli forces have carried out near-nightly arrest raids that often set off violent confrontations. The Health Ministry says 420 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the war.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want all three territories for their future state.

HAMAS CALLS ON PALESTINIANS TO RISE UP DURING RAMADAN

BEIRUT — Hamas is calling on Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank to rise up against Israel during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, speaking to reporters in Beirut on Monday, said Palestinians should “make every moment of Ramadan a confrontation.”

The U.S., Qatar and Egypt have been trying for weeks to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and to convince the militant group to release some of the scores of hostages it is still holding from the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war.

The mediators hope to broker a truce before Ramadan, which is expected to begin around March 10.

The month of dawn-to-dusk fasting is a time of heightened prayer, reflection and charity for Muslims around the world, but Israeli-Palestinian tensions often spike over access to a major holy site in Jerusalem.

Hamas has repeatedly called for a broader uprising in the occupied West Bank, where violence has surged since the start of the war, and among Israel’s own Palestinian minority.

Hamdan did not provide any specifics about the ongoing cease-fire negotiations. Addressing his remarks to Israel and its top ally, the United States, he said: “What they have not gained in the battlefield, they will not gain through political machinations.”

The war began when Hamas-led militants broke through Israel’s defenses on Oct. 7 and stormed into several communities near Gaza, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting around 250 hostages. Hamas freed over 100 hostages during a weeklong November cease-fire in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says the war has killed over 30,000 Palestinians. Around 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have been driven from their homes.

A FOREIGN WORKER IS KILLED IN MISSILE FIRE FROM LEBANON

KIRYAT SHMONA, Israel — Israeli rescuers say a foreign worker was killed and several others wounded by an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon.

The Magen David Adom rescue service said Monday it was treating seven people, including two in serious condition. Associated Press reporters saw the Israeli army transporting several Thai workers, some limping and bleeding, to ambulances near the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona.

According to to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an Israeli advocacy group, the man who was killed was from India. It said Israel was not doing enough to protect migrant workers hired for agricultural work in border areas under fire.

Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group have traded fire nearly every day since the start of the war in Gaza. Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, says it is trying to pin down Israeli forces in the north to aid the Palestinian group.

Hezbollah did not immediately claim responsibility for Monday’s strike.

The Lebanese group said in statements Monday that it had stopped two attempts by Israeli forces to cross into Lebanese territory overnight and that it had launched an artillery attack on an Israeli barracks.

Also on Monday, U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Beirut to meet with Lebanese officials in an attempt to tamp down tensions.

The near-daily clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have killed more than 200 Hezbollah fighters and at least 37 civilians in Lebanon. Around 20 people have been killed on the Israeli side, including civilians and soldiers.

Tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border have been forced to flee their homes because of the ongoing fighting. Israel has vowed to continue attacking Hezbollah, even if there is a cease-fire in Gaza, in order to push its fighters away from the border.

Farm workers from Asian countries have flocked to Israel in recent years, drawn by higher wages. Several foreign workers were among those killed and abducted in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack out of Gaza, which triggered the war.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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