UN ‘Silent’ on Sexual Violence Claims – Israel Recalls UN Envoy

Israel recalled its ambassador to the United Nations. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

The Israeli Foreign Minister said the UN envoy is ‘on a plane back’ to Tel Aviv after he was recalled in protest at “the UN’s attempt to silence” a UN report on sexual violence in conflict.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz has summoned the country’s permanent representative to the UN, Gilad Erdan, in protest at what he claimed was “the attempt to silence the UN report on sexual assault” allegedly committed by Resistance fighters on October 7, according to Israeli media.

“I ordered ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, to return to Israel for immediate consultations regarding the attempt to silence the serious UN report,” Katz said on Monday, the Jerusalem Post reports.

“Despite the authority granted to him, the UN Secretary-General did not order the convening of the Security Council in view of the findings, in order to declare the Hamas organization a terrorist organization and impose sanctions on its supporters,” he reportedly added.

On his X page on Tuesday, Katz wrote: “As the Foreign Minister, I determine the policy and the scale of values of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and therefore, I instructed to immediately take the unprecedented and extraordinary step of summoning Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations for consultations, and he is currently on the plane on his way to Israel.”

Criticizing the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the foreign minister said he has brought the UN to its lowest level “when he ignores terrible crimes against humanity committed against Jews and Israelis and constantly engages in attempts to discredit Israel and harm its right to self-defense.”

“We will do everything to prevent him and his friends from forgetting this report and from forgetting to avoid making the required decisions,” Katz concluded.

The Israel National News website quotes Ambassador Erdan as saying that “during the last five months, there was not a single discussion here dedicated to the welfare of the hostages.”

Sexual Violence in Conflict Report

The UN report in question was the result of a special mission headed by Pramila Patten, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SVC), following a 17-day visit to Israel.

The SVC report from her Office “arose from an official visit to Israel at the invitation of the Government” between January 29 and February 14, according to a UN News report published on Monday.

According to the news report, there are “reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred in multiple locations”.

Hamas Condemnation

The Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas has rejected the UN report, saying in a statement on Tuesday that it “strongly” condemns the report “regarding the claim and allegations of Palestinian resistance fighters ‘committing rape and sexual violence’” on October 7.

It said this came “after failed Israeli attempts to prove this false charge, which was confirmed to have no basis in truth, except to demonize the Palestinian Resistance.”

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Hamas added it was intended “to cover up the United Nations rapporteurs’ report about the existence of conclusive evidence of horrific human rights violations suffered by Palestinian women and girls by the Israeli occupation forces.”

According to the Office’s press release, the UN’s SRSG team is of the view that the true extent of sexual violence committed during the October 7 attacks and their aftermath could take months or years to emerge and may never be fully known.”

It also said the mission was “made up of Ms. Patten and nine experts – which was not investigative in nature – conducted 33 meetings with Israeli representatives, examining more than 5,000 photographic images and 50 hours of video footage. It conducted 34 confidential interviews including with survivors and witnesses of the 7 October attacks, released hostages, first responders and others.”

The SVC report says that Israeli authorities have faced numerous challenges in collecting evidence.

Hamas said Patten’s report “did not document any testimony of what she calls victims of those cases, but relied in her report on Israeli institutions, soldiers and witnesses selected by the occupation authorities, to push towards trying to prove this false charge, which was refuted by all investigations and international reports.”

It also said Patten’s claims are “clearly contradicted” by the testimonies of the released Israeli female prisoners about the “good treatment by the fighters towards them” during captivity.

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“This false accusation will not succeed in obscuring the ugliness and horror of the Israeli crimes” committed in the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in the killing of more than 30,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, said Hamas.

‘The Black Dress’ Investigation

In a statement on February 19, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it had received information that Palestinian women and girls have “reportedly been arbitrarily executed in Gaza, often together with family members, including their children.” 

The experts added they “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.”

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“At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence,” the experts stated. 

These reports were largely ignored in Western mainstream media, which continued to promote unsubstantiated allegations that Israeli women were raped by Palestinians during the October 7 Al-Aqsa Flood Operation. 

Yet, on December 28, The New York Times claimed, in a supposedly comprehensive report entitled ‘Screams without Words: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7’, that Israeli women were raped on October 7. The report was first published digitally on December 28, then in print on December 31.

The Palestine Chronicle and Friends of Palestine Network, conducted a joint investigation, based on media reports, in addition to historical and political analyses.

The outcome of their investigation resulted in the launch of ‘The Black Dress’, an 18-minute documentary looking into The New York Times allegations and the possible falsification of evidence regarding what has truly transpired on October 7.

Occupied West Bank

The UN mission headed by Patten also visited Ramallah in the occupied West Bank “to hear the views and concerns of officials and civil society representatives since 7 October which allegedly implicate Israeli security forces and settlers.”

Patten heard concerns raised “over cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinians in detention, including sexual violence in the form of invasive searches, threats of rape and prolonged forced nudity,” the UN News report said.

The information gathered will complement that already gathered by other UN officials on allegations of conflict-related sexual violence inside Gaza, for potential inclusion in the Secretary-General’s annual report on the issue.

Patten’s recommendations include a call for the Israeli Government to grant full access to the UN human rights office (OHCHR) and the Human Rights Council-mandated independent Commission of Inquiry on the occupied territory “to conduct fully-fledged independent investigations into all alleged violations”, according to the press release.

Patten reportedly also called on all relevant and competent bodies to bring all perpetrators of sexual violence to justice while offering the full support of her office to bolster national efforts.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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