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UN commission to investigate Hamas sexual violence, appeal for evidence

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UN commission to investigate Hamas sexual violence, appeal for evidence



A UN commission of inquiry investigating war crimes on both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict will focus on sexual violence by Hamas in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and is about to launch an appeal for evidence, its chair told Reuters on Wednesday.

Chair Navi Pillay on Wednesday said she would pass the evidence onto the International Criminal Court and called for it to consider prosecutions amid earlier criticism from Israel and families of Israeli hostages that the UN had kept quiet.

“I’m now sitting as chair of a commission with the power to investigate this. So there’s no way we will not do so,” said Pillay, chair of the three-member commission of inquiry into abuses committed in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Already, she said some people are keen to provide testimonies and that these would be handed over to prosecutors.

However, a major challenge for Pillay is that Israel has not cooperated with the commission, which it says has an anti-Israel bias. The commission could struggle to gather sufficient evidence to support future charges if access is not granted.

Hamas has denied the abuses and was not available for comment. Israel’s diplomatic mission in Geneva said on Thursday the commission had “pre-existing biased prejudices against Israel”.

Signs against what protesters describe as international silence over sexual violence perpetrated against Israeli women during the attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on southern Israel on October 7, are displayed on a bench at a protest in Jerusalem, November 27, 2023 (credit: REUTERS/DEDI HAYUN)

“Since the establishment of the COI (Commission of Inquiry) in 2021, Israel has made it clear: it will not cooperate with this discriminatory body and its Commissioners,” Israel’s permanent mission to the UN in Geneva said in a statement to Reuters on Thursday.

“Israeli victims will never get justice from this Commission of Inquiry.”

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Evidence of rape used as a tool of war

Israeli authorities have already opened their own investigation into sexual violence during the most deadly attack on Israel in its history, including rape, after evidence emerged pointing to sexual crimes, such as victims found disrobed and mutilated.

Evidence about sexual violence includes testimonies given to Reuters since Oct. 7 by first responders at the sites of the attacks as well as military reservists who tended to the bodies in the identification process. Reuters has seen photos corroborating some of those accounts.

The UN Commission of Inquiry, set up in 2021 by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and composed of three independent experts, has an unusually broad mandate to collect evidence and identify perpetrators of international crimes. It is about to release a public “call for submissions” for evidence on Hamas’ sexual violence, said Pillay, who is a former UN human rights chief and International Criminal Court judge.

Sometimes, the evidence gathered by such UN bodies has formed the basis for war crimes prosecutions and could be drawn on by the International Criminal Court which has jurisdiction over both Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 and any crimes committed on Palestinian territory as part of Israel’s response including bombings in the Gaza Strip, the ICC’s top prosecutor said.

Pillay told Reuters she had met with prosecutors of the ICC since the Oct. 7 attacks to collaborate on sharing evidence.

“I was very impressed with the deputy prosecutor’s (Nazhat Shameem Khan) emphasis on how seriously she wishes to investigate the incidents of sexual violence, the complaints coming from Israel,” she said.

Pillay’s 18-person commission is requesting US and Egyptian help in convincing Israel to grant access to investigate, but Washington has also criticised the commission, as have European allies. At issue is that its investigations, unusually for the UN, have no end date and a perception among some Western states that it subjects Israel to disproportionate scrutiny.

Pillay described Israel’s bombing of Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attacks as “absolutely shocking” and condemned the high death toll, which Gaza’s health ministry number at over 15,000.

Another priority is investigating the killing of reporters during the seven-week-old conflict, Pillay said, including Reuters’ visuals journalist Issam Abdallah who was killed on Oct. 13. Israel has said it does not deliberately target journalists and that it is investigating the incident.





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Iranian FM: Israeli weapons are ‘toys for our children to play with’

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Iranian FM: Israeli weapons are ‘toys for our children to play with’



Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian joked a day after Israel’s strikes in Iran that the weapons used were “more like toys that our children play with – not drones,” according to a Saturday article from Iran’s semi-official Mehr News Agency. 

Making the comments in an interview with NBC News, Abdollahian said “As long as there is no new adventurism by Israel against our interests, then we are not going to have any new reactions.”

Threats against Israel

“If Israel takes a decisive action against my country and this is proven to us,” he said, “our response will be immediate and to the maximum and will cause them to regret it.”

The foreign minister went on to threaten that his comments were only a warning, and that “We could have hit Haifa and Tel Aviv… We could have also targeted all the economic ports of Israel.” 

The IDF displays an Iranian ballistic missile which they retrieved from the Dead Sea after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, at Julis military base, in southern Israel April 16, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

Abdollahian said that the only reason that Iran had not successfully hit Haifa, Tel Aviv or any major port was because Iran’s “red lines [were] civilians…We only had a military purpose.”

A 7-year-old Arab girl was killed during Iran’s mass drone attack which saw hundreds of UAVs and multiple ballistic missiles fired seemingly randomly at Israel. While few Iranian aerial assault weapons successfully hit Israel, one hit a northern Arab village and one hit Arad- which is where the 7-year-old girl was killed. 





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White House urges Congress to quickly send foreign aid bill to Biden’s desk

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White House urges Congress to quickly send foreign aid bill to Biden’s desk



Passing the national security supplemental bills would send a powerful message about the strength of American leadership at a pivotal moment, the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement released Friday morning as the House continues debates on rules for proceeding with the bills. 

The supplemental funding package provides long overdue funding to support Ukraine as it continues defending itself against Russia’s brutal war of aggression. Ukraine must prevail, the White House said. 

This supplemental funding also helps Israel protect its people against Hamas and Iran and its other proxies, including Hezbollah.

The White House’s statement

“It is critical that we quickly help Israel replenish its air defenses following Iran’s recent brazen and unprecedented attack and ensure Israel maintains its military edge against Iran or any other adversary,” according to the statement. 

A MURAL in Tel Aviv depicts US President Joe Biden as a superhero defending Israel against the Iranian attack. On the strategic level, Israel suffered a whopping loss as Iran pierced American and Israeli deterrence frameworks with apparent impunity, the writer maintains. (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

The funding would also provide urgent life-saving humanitarian assistance for Palestinian civilians in Gaza and vulnerable people suffering around the world, the statement said, as well as critical support to Indo-Pacific partners. 

“The world is watching what the Congress does,” the White House said. “The Administration urges both chambers of the Congress to quickly send this supplemental funding package to the President’s desk.”





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American money ear-marked for PA security used to pay families of terrorists from Jenin – report

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American money ear-marked for PA security used to pay families of terrorists from Jenin – report



The Palestinian Authority’s General Security Service (GIS) has apparently admitted to using American money earmarked for security to pay the family of terrorists from Jenin, according to a Palestinian Media Watch report.

According to the report, on April 4, 2024, PA news agency WAFA published that the GIS in Jenin had given a grant to “the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners from the service’s ranks in the district.”

The GIS gave grants to around 36 families from among the “martyrs and prisoners.”

The vast majority of those identified as “martyrs” or “prisoners” were members of the GIS who had committed acts of terror, according to the PMW.

The grant was given at the direction of PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, who emphasized a core principle of Mahmoud Abbas: “If we are left with one penny, it will be paid to the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners.”

Taylor Force, 29, was killed by a Palestinian terrorist who went on a stabbing rampage in Jaffa on March 8, 2016 (credit: FACEBOOK)

Taylor Force Act

The US had all but ceased providing funds for the PA after the implementation of the 2017 Taylor Force Act, which blocked all funding for the PA general budget.

The act was named for Taylor Force, an American citizen killed in a terror attack in 2016, where the attacker’s family received money from the PA’s pay-for-slay program.

The exception to this was the funding of the PA’s security sector, which received around $45 million in 2022, according to the State Department’s website.

The PMW says that this money was then used to not only provide funds for terrorists and their families but also to train PA security forces, many of whom end up involved in terrorism, according to PA statements in 2023.

The PMW charge that US funds are now being used to directly fund and train terrorists in the West Bank.





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