Report by U.N.-backed experts cites crimes by Israeli forces, Palestinian militants starting Oct. 7

Former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
(Salvatore Di Nolfi / Associated Press)
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U.N.-backed human rights experts say in a report issued Wednesday that Israeli forces and Palestinian militants engaged in sexual and gender-based violence during the first months of the Israel-Hamas war.

The independent experts, in a detailed chronicling of events that have mostly been reported in the media, said Israeli forces and Palestinian militants committed war crimes, while Israel was also said to have committed crimes against humanity.

Israel, which has refused to cooperate with the body and accused it of bias, rejected the allegations.


The report, which covered the time between the Oct. 7 rampage and the end of last year, laid out a wide array of alleged rights violations and crimes by both sides during the conflict. It said Israeli forces had committed acts including forced starvation, murder or willful killing, collective punishment and intentional attacks on civilians, and that the military wings of Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups had performed deliberate killings and mistreatment of civilians and hostage-takings.

The U.N. human rights office is citing possible war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in connection with a raid by Israeli forces.

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The findings come as the conflict has entered its ninth month with few signs of letting up.

The report said that frequency, prevalence and severity of sexual and gender-based crimes against Palestinians by Israeli security forces during the period late last year amounted to signs that some forms of such violence “are part of ISF operating procedures.”

Despite noting denials by Hamas’ military wing of sexual violence against Israeli women, the report said the experts had documented “cases indicative of sexual violence” against women and men near the site of a large music festival, a military outpost and several kibbutzim that the raiders attacked.

The expert panel was commissioned in 2021 by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council to look into rights violations and abuses in Israel and the Palestinian areas it controls. Led by Navi Pillay, a former U.N. human rights chief, they are independent experts and do not speak for the world body itself. Israel has refused to cooperate with the team of experts.

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Israel’s diplomatic mission in Geneva responded that the report “outrageously and repugnantly attempts to draw a false equivalence between IDF soldiers and Hamas terrorists with regards to acts of sexual violence” and reiterating longstanding claims of anti-Israel discrimination by the experts.


The report and Israel’s response marked the latest sign of the growing gulf between the U.N. and its affiliate institutions and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over its response to the deadly Oct. 7 rampage and hostage-takings in Israel by armed Palestinian militants.

On Tuesday, the U.N. human rights office — which is separate from the panel of independent experts — cited possible war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in connection with a deadly raid by Israeli forces that freed four hostages over the weekend and killed hundreds of Palestinians.