Palestinian women, girls sexually assaulted by Israeli forces: UN experts express shock

News Network
February 20, 2024

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United Nation's (UN) experts have raised concern over reports of human rights violations against Palestinian women and girls in Gaza and the occupied West Bank since Israel launched its war on Gaza on October 7.

In a statement on Monday, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that it had received information that Palestinian women and girls have been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault at the hands of Israeli army officers, reported Al Jazeera.

"We are particularly distressed by reports that Palestinian women and girls in detention have been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault, such as being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers. At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence," the UN experts said.

The experts also said that the OHCHR has received reports of 'arbitrary execution' of Palestinian women and girls, often with their families.

"We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing. Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces", they said.

Israel waged a brutal war on besieged Gaza on October 7 after the Palestinian Hamas resistance group carried out its historic operation against the occupying entity in retaliation for its intensified atrocities against the Palestinian people.

So far, the Tel Aviv regime has killed at least 29,092 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured 69,028 others.

In the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem too, Israeli forces intensified raids, killing hundreds of Palestinians and detaining thousand others.

UN experts raised alarm over the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls, human rights defenders, journalists and humanitarian workers in Gaza and West Bank.

Many women have reportedly been subjected to inhuman treatment, denied menstrual pads, medicine and food. The OHCHR said that they have also suffered severe beatings and on at least one occasion. Palestinian women detained in Gaza were allegedly kept in a cage in the rain and cold, without food.

UN experts noted that photos of the detainees in 'degrading circumstances' were taken by Israeli forces and then posted online.

An unknown number of Palestinian women and children have gone missing since Israel began its war on Gaza, the experts said.

“There are disturbing reports of at least one female infant forcibly transferred by the Israeli army into Israel, and of children being separated from their parents, whose whereabouts remain unknown,” they said.

The experts have called for an 'impartial, independent and effective' investigation into the allegations and for Israel to cooperate.

The experts further expressed, "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 that could be prosecuted under the Rome Statute."

"Those responsible for these apparent crimes must be held accountable and victims and their families are entitled to full redress and justice."

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News Network
April 4,2024

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Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are wondering how they are going to feed their families as World Central Kitchen (WCK) paused its operations in response to the killing of seven of its aid workers in an Israeli air strike.

Another US charity it works with, Anera, has also suspended work because of the escalating risks faced by its local staff and their families.

Together, they were serving two million meals a week across the Palestinian territory, where the UN has warned that an estimated 1.1 million people - half the population - are facing catastrophic hunger because of Israeli restrictions on aid deliveries, the ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of order.

WCK's decision to pause its work also led to the "freezing" of a maritime aid corridor from Cyprus, which the charity helped set up last month to increase the trickle of aid getting into the north of Gaza and avert a looming famine.

The WCK convoy was hit on Monday night as it travelled south along the Israeli-designated coastal aid route, just after they had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of food from a barge at a warehouse in Deir al-Balah.

That barge was part of a four-vessel flotilla that sailed back to Cyprus with 240 tonnes of supplies that could not be brought ashore in the wake of the strike.

The Norwegian Refugee Council warned that "what happened to World Central Kitchen threatens the entire aid system" and had left it "on the brink".

WCK accused the Israeli military of a "targeted attack" on vehicles clearly marked with the charity's logo and whose movements had been co-ordinated with Israel authorities. The victims were British, Polish, Australian and Palestinian, and also included a dual US-Canadian citizen.

The aid groups say that this was not an isolated incident, with at least 196 Palestinian aid workers already killed since the war began in October.

Jan Egeland, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a former UN humanitarian chief, said that WCK was "among those who have the closest co-operation with the Israelis", in terms of sharing information about their workers' locations and planned movements.

Before the strike, WCK was playing an increasingly prominent and important role in Gaza, with 400 Palestinian staff and 3,000 people working indirectly in its 68 community kitchens and distribution system across the territory.

WCK provided 12% of the 193,000 tonnes of aid from international organisations that had reached Gaza as of Tuesday, according to data from Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry body tasked with co-ordinating deliveries. However, UN agencies were responsible for 80% of the total.

WCK's founder, the chef José Andrés, said on Wednesday that it was "analysing the situation and how to keep doing the work we do".

Anera - which was providing 150,000 meals a day in collaboration with WCK - said it understood the consequences pausing its own work would have on Palestinians, but that its Palestinian staff had for the first time deemed the risk to their safety and that of their families "intolerable".

It said the charity's logistics co-ordinator and his son had been killed in an Israeli air strike in Deir al-Balah in March, despite the fact that the co-ordinates of the shelter where they were staying had been provided to the Israeli military.

"We've asked for explanation as to why that site was struck and we've received none," Derek Madsen of Anera said. "These sites are known and so I think it is very difficult for us to understand how these strikes happen."

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News Network
April 12,2024

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New Delhi, Apr 12: India on Friday asked its citizens not to travel to Iran or Israel amid escalating tensions between the two countries following a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria 11 days ago.

Iran blamed Israel for the strike and there have been fears that Tehran may launch an attack on Israel soon.

In an advisory, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also urged the Indians residing in Iran and Israel to exercise utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to minimum.

“In view of the prevailing situation in the region, all Indians are advised not to travel to Iran or Israel till further notice,” it said.

“All those who are currently residing in Iran or Israel are requested to get in touch with Indian Embassies there and register themselves,” the MEA said.

“They are also requested to observe utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to the minimum,” it added. 

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News Network
April 5,2024

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New Delhi: The Congress has released its manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, with jobs creation, development of infrastructure, and a national caste census among the major highlights.

The manifesto was released in Delhi by party boss Mallikarjun Kharge, who was flanked by senior leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram - who led the committee that drafted the document - was also present.

"This manifesto will be 'nyay ka dastavez' (a document for justice) in the political history of the country. From the five pillars of the 'Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra' - yuva (youth), kisan (farmers), naari (women), shramik (workers), and hissedari (equity), 25 guarantees will emerge... ," Mr Kharge said.

The overall theme of the manifesto is based on 'work', 'wealth', and 'welfare', the party said.

"'Work' means you must provide jobs. 'Wealth' must be created before it is distributed. 'Welfare' means taking care of the poorer sections," the Congress said.

Silent on CAA

While the manifesto is silent on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and restoration of Article 370, the party promises immediate restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

Caste Census

One of the biggest talking points is the caste census - a political hot topic that has been in the headlines since the Bihar government's statewide survey was released in November.

The 48-page document promises to amend the Constitution to raise the 50 per cent cap on reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, with Caste Census providing the latest data to go ahead with the affirmative action. Addressing land issues, the party also pledges to establish an authority to monitor the distribution of government land and surplus land under the land ceiling Acts to the poor.

MSP for Farmers

The party has also promised to implement MSP, or minimum support price, for farmer growing cash crops. The MSP issue has been at the heart of protests by farmers since 2020, when lakhs from across the country went on a months-long agitation against the centre's (now-scrapped) three farm laws.

The Congress has said it will give a permanent legal guarantee for MSP - a core demand for protesting farmers - based on the formula recommended by the Swaminathan Commission.

"Congress has been the only party that has lent its ear to the distress of the farmers and farm labourers, and we are determined to do everything possible to alleviate their pain and make agriculture a desirable livelihood," the party said, attacking the BJP's response to the farmers protest as "callous and brutal".

Poverty

The party also vowed to eliminate poverty by improving the fortunes of 23 crore people over the next decade. Mr Chidambaram attacked the BJP as a "government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich", and said it is "driven by the interests of the top 1 per cent".

"... but we will look at the bottom 50 per cent. The bottom 50 per cent is as important. It has been estimated 23 crore people are still poor in this country. The UPA lifted 24 crore people out of poverty and we promise, if the Congress-led government comes to power in 2024, we will lift 23 crore in 10 years."

As part of this promise - and to empower women - the Congress said it would launch a 'Mahalakshmi' scheme to provide an unconditional cash transfer of Rs 1 lakh per year to the oldest female member of every poor family.  Beneficiaries will be identified as those from the bottom level of the income pyramid.

Inequality of income and opportunity remain India's ugliest truth. It is the moral and political responsibility of any government to ensure that every family is assured of a basic income every month, the party said.

National Security, China

The Congress said it "recognises that national security is not enhanced by chest-thumping or exaggerated claims, but by quiet attention to borders and resolute defence preparedness".

The party said it would work to restore status quo on the country's borders with China and "ensure areas where both armies patrolled in the past are again accessible to our soldiers".

This has been seen as a direct jab at the BJP over the military stand-off with China in parts of eastern Ladakh following violence in June 2020 that, the opposition has repeatedly claimed, led to New Delhi surrendering territory to Beijing.

On diplomatic tension with Maldives, the Congress said it work to "repair relations".

Healthcare

Universal free healthcare, including cost of diagnosis, surgery, and medication, will be made available, the party said. This will come with cashless insurance up to ₹ 25 lakh, like the model implemented in Rajasthan, when the Congress was in power.

"We promise that healthcare will be universal and free in public health centres, such as hospitals, clinics, PHCs, MHCs, and dispensaries, as well as health camps. Free healthcare will include examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery, medicines, rehabilitation, and palliative care."

The Congress said it would also establish Assisted Living and Care Centres for disabled people and provide representation for them in local bodies.

Other Major Points

In a move likely to resonate strongly among unemployed youth struggling with massive loan debts, the party said it would "as a one-time measure of relief" write off all student educational loans, including unpaid interest. This amount will be calculated as on March 15.

Banks will be compensated by the government, the Congress said.

The party said it would also introduce a law to "recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community".

The Congress said it would amend laws to "combine the efficiency of EVM and transparency of ballot papers". "Voting will be through the EVM but the voter will be able to hold and deposit the machine-generated voting slip into the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit," the party said.

2024 Lok Sabha Election

The election will be spread over seven phases beginning April 19. Votes will be declared June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP - which is yet to release its manifesto - are bidding for a third consecutive term.  They face a combined challenge from the opposition, which has united (for the most part) under the INDIA banner led by the Congress. 

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