NewsU.N. Envoy calls for cease-fire amidst reports of sexual violence in Gaza

U.N. Envoy calls for cease-fire amidst reports of sexual violence in Gaza

U.N. Envoy calls for cease-fire amidst reports of sexual violence in Gaza
Images source: © PAP | PAP/EPA/SARAH YENESEL

10:13 AM EDT, March 12, 2024

In a powerful address to the United Nations Security Council, the U.N. special envoy on sexual violence, Pramila Patten, issued a stark warning against the backdrop of escalating hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Highlighting the grim findings of sexual violence against hostages taken during Hamas's October 7th attack in southern Israel, Patten's message was unmistakable: such acts of violence do not justify further aggression. Instead, they underscore the urgent need for a humanitarian cease-fire to alleviate the dire situation faced by civilians in Gaza and secure the immediate release of all hostages.

Patten's intervention came during a council meeting convened by Israel and backed by the United States, United Kingdom, and France to shed light on her recent report. The document presented "clear and convincing information" on the sexual violence inflicted by Hamas, including rape, sexualized torture, and other inhuman acts against women during the attack that left approximately 1,200 dead and 250 taken as hostages. With 134 hostages still in captivity and over 2 million Gazan civilians trapped in the conflict zone, Patten emphasized the shared fate of those affected, advocating for an immediate cease-fire.

The ongoing Israeli offensive in response to the Hamas attack has resulted in over 30,000 deaths, with women and children making up two-thirds of the casualties, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel's Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, attending the meeting, vehemently condemned the "crimes against humanity" perpetrated by Hamas, criticizing the Security Council's failure to denounce the group's actions and its reluctance to label Hamas as a terrorist organization.

In a notable gesture, Katz extended Ramadan greetings to the Muslim community, distancing Hamas's actions from the broader Islamic faith and urging the international community to condemn the group's heinous crimes. Meanwhile, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, highlighted the bleak reality in Gaza, where the holy month of Ramadan is overshadowed by death and despair. Mansour accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of prioritizing political survival over the well-being of Gazans, aiming to displace the Palestinian population by rendering Gaza uninhabitable.

Mansour praised the Security Council's swift response to Patten's report and expressed hope for similar urgency in addressing sexual violence against Palestinians. Patten's recommendations include granting the U.N. human rights chief and an independent commission access to investigate the alleged violations by Hamas. Despite her findings, Patten noted the absence of reports concerning rape in the West Bank but did encounter instances of sexual violence, including invasive searches and threats, during detentions by Israeli authorities.

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