Palestinians in Gaza massacred, starved and raped

Mar 2, 2024
A woman wears a mask with Palestine flag. Save gaza concept Image:iStock/ ninitta

The Australian government remains silent, continues to call Israel “our friend”, and rewards Israel’s war machine in a new contract with the Israeli arms firm Elbit. The Federal Government sends more troops to the Middle East while starving Palestinians in northern Gaza are massacred as they desperately seek food for their families, babies in Gaza are dying of starvation and dehydration and the IDF sexually abuses and rapes Palestinian women prisoners.

On 29-2-24 Israeli troops fired on thousands of desperate, starving Palestinians in the north of Gaza killing 112 and wounding 760 according to the Gaza health Ministry. Palestinian police, previously keeping order and protecting aid trucks, have been killed in previous incidences. Al Shafa hospital, mostly destroyed by Israel troops, was overwhelmed and due to lack of resources could only provide first aid. There are now 30,000 Palestinians who have been killed, the majority still women and children, and over 70,000 wounded let alone the numbers of dead under the rubble and the thousands imprisoned by Israel.

In Al Adwan hospital in northern Gaza it was reported on the 29-2-24 that seven babies had died from starvation as the IDF blocked roads and continued to shoot at aid trucks as they attempted to reach the northern section of Gaza, and doctors expect to receive many more as hundreds of babies and thousands of Gazans face starvation. The hospital does not even have enough milk to give to these struggling infants.

Not only is Israel conducting mass killings of desperate Palestinians and using forced starvation as weapon of war, they are also using torture and illegal detention of hundreds of men and women and girls who have been arbitrarily detained in Gaza and the West Bank since October 7th. Among these detainees are doctors and other health workers, journalists and human rights workers. Reporting on February 19 2024 UN experts Reem Alsalem and Francesca Albanese stated that credible accusations have emerged “ . . . 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,” the experts said. “We 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. At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence,” the experts said. They also noted that photos of female detainees in degrading circumstances were also reportedly taken by the Israeli army and uploaded online.

The experts also expressed concern that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children, including girls, have reportedly gone missing after contact with the Israeli army in Gaza. “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.

EuroMed a few days ago on the 27-2-24 also released a report on the raping and sexual violence being perpetrated against Palestinian women prisoners in Gaza. “According to the testimonies of female detainees who were recently released following various periods of detention, they endured severe treatment that amounts to torture, including beatings, threats of rape if they disobeyed orders, forced nudity, strip searches in front of male soldiers, and verbal harassment. Members of the Israeli army not only robbed them of any money and belongings they had at the time of their arrest, but tied the detainees up, blindfolded them for extended periods of time, held them in cages amid freezing weather, and denied them access to food, medicine, essential medical care, and menstrual products. Israeli forces also continuously threatened them with losing the ability to see their children”.

These alleged acts constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and are serious crimes under international criminal law. The UN experts have called for an independent, impartial, prompt, thorough and effective investigation into the allegations and for Israel to cooperate with such investigations.

So what does Australia do in the face of these atrocities? Rather than break its links with a country that is before the ICJ and ICC for genocide and crimes against humanity they renew a military contract worth $917 million with Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit. Monika Sarder reporting in MichaelWest media Feb 28, 2024 wrote that over 70 Australian companies supply parts and maintenance to F-35 bombers and that Israel has 50 F-35 craft and has placed an order for 25 more. She noted that every F-35 contains some Australian parts. Not only does Australia have contracts with Elbit but the Victorian government also works with another weapons manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries.

A Senate hearing in October 2023 revealed Australia had approved 322 permits for defence goods to be exported to Israel since 2017. A similar hearing in February this year revealed that two approvals has been made since 7 October and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) figures show that there has been $10 million in arms and ammunition sales to Israel in the past five years. Is our Foreign Minister lying when she says that Australia is not exporting arms to Israel?? Under the Arms Trade Treaty, Australia has an obligation to assess the risk of an export contributing to serious human rights abuses, and they have an obligation to cease such export if there is a risk or if they could be used to commit war crimes or other violations of international law. But is Australia doing that? It seems not, in which case Australia is violating the Arms Trade Treaty and could be in violation of humanitarian law at the very least.

Countries across the world are suspending their contracts with Israeli arms suppliers. On 12 February a Dutch court ordered the government to halt the export of F-35 parts used by Israel in its bombardment of Gaza as there is a “clear risk” that they are being used in “serious violations of international humanitarian law”. Spain has suspended all weapons sales to Israel and continues to call for an immediate ceasefire, and the Japanese company Itochu Corporation will suspend its partnership with Elbit Sysems by the end of February.

So how is the Australian government responding to these latest atrocities in Gaza? They have sent more troops to the Middle East, signed military contracts with Israeli arms firm and failed to “unpause” desperately need aid to UNRWA. Has the Foreign Minister called in the Israeli Ambassador to explain why his government is killing and starving babies and why the IDF is raping women in continued war crimes and genocide? Somehow I doubt it. The government had a few words of criticism with Canada and New Zealand calling for a ceasefire but not the moral outrage and strong condemnation that Israel deserves. Why is the government so cowardly when a recent survey conducted by Australian humanitarian aid agencies found that four in five Australians are in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza (81%), and a majority (53%) support the Australian Government taking more action to achieve that goal.

Australia should send the Israeli Ambassador home and recall our Ambassador from Israel and should call again to implement an immediate ceasefire. It should investigate how many Australian citizens are serving right now in the genocidal Israeli army and implement a sanctions program starting with cancelling the recent agreement with Israeli firm Elbit and immediately “unpause” and increase desperately needed aid to Gaza.


For more on this topic, P&I recommends:

Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences;

Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967;


Oxfam Australia Media Release

Support for Gaza ceasefire and more government action surges in Australian community as aid agencies call for urgent support.


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