UN experts speak out about sexual assault and mistreatment of Palestinian women and girls by IDF

A United Nations human rights panel has called for an independent investigation into reports that Palestinian women and girls have been sexually abused by Israeli soldiers.

In a collective statement on Monday, the seven experts said they were "distressed" by reports that male Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers had raped, assaulted, and strip-searched female prisoners in Gaza.

They highlighted reports that IDF soldiers had taken photos of prisoners in degrading situations and uploaded them to the internet, as well as claims that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children had gone missing after being detained.

They also expressed "shock" at reports that the IDF had deliberately targeted female civilians even while they were fleeing or seeking shelter from Israeli attacks.

“Taken together, these alleged acts may constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and amount to serious crimes under international criminal law," the experts said.

They called for an immediate and impartial investigation into the claims, and demanded that Israel's government cooperate fully.

A spokesperson for the IDF said: “The IDF rejects those baseless accusations. The IDF operates according to international law. Without precise details or proof of individual cases it is not possible for us to examine them in depth.”

More than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the start of the Hamas-Israel war, according to Gaza's health ministry, which claims that most of that number were women and children

An Israeli study late last year similarly found that roughly 61 per cent of deaths from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza were civilians.

Monday's statement was issued by Reem Alsalem, the UN special reporteur on violence against women and girls, and Francesca Albanese, the special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, alongside the UN working group on discrimination against women and girls.

Special rapporteurs are not UN staff members and speak in an individual capacity, but they are appointed by the international body's Human Rights Council and their statements carry global influence.