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A war crime? Israeli soldiers play with Gaza women's underwear in online posts

March 28, 2024 at 11:52 am

Israeli soldiers film themselves with Palestinian’s private belongings

Israeli soldiers have been posting photos and videos of themselves toying with lingerie found in Palestinian homes, creating a dissonant visual record of the war in Gaza as a looming famine intensifies world scrutiny of Israel’s offensive.

In one video, an Israeli soldier sits in an armchair in a room in Gaza grinning, with a gun in one hand and dangling white satin underwear from the other over the open mouth of a comrade lying on a sofa.

Elsewhere, another soldier sits atop a tank holding a female mannequin dressed in a black bra and helmet and says: “I found a beautiful wife, serious relationship in Gaza, great woman.”

The two videos shot by Israeli soldiers are among dozens of posts in which troops in Gaza are shown displaying lingerie, mannequins, and in some cases both. The lingerie images have been viewed tens of thousands of times – nearly half a million in one case.

“The posting of such images is demeaning to Palestinian women, and all women,” said Ravina Shamdasani, UN Human Rights Office spokesperson.

Reuters sent details of the eight verified posts on YouTube or Instagram to the Israel Defense Forces, requesting comment. In response, a spokesperson sent a statement saying the Israeli army investigates incidents that deviate from the orders and expected values of soldiers, as well as reports of videos uploaded to social networks.

“In cases where suspicion of a criminal offence arises that justifies opening an investigation, an investigation is opened by the Military Police,” it said.

“It should be clarified that in some of the examined cases, it is concluded that the expression or behaviour of the soldiers in the video is inappropriate, and it is handled accordingly,” the statement said.

The army declined to say whether it was referring to any of the images highlighted, or whether any of the soldiers responsible have been disciplined.

The Israeli soldiers whom Reuters was able to identify did not respond to requests for comment sent via their social media accounts.

Mannequins and underwear

The authenticated posts include a photo of a soldier holding a bare female mannequin from behind with his hands on its breasts and one of a soldier handling a half-naked doll.

One photo shows a soldier posing with his gun, making a thumbs-up gesture, in front of a double bed strewn with packets of women’s underwear.

YouTube said it had removed a video flagged for violating the platform’s harassment policies, which prohibit content that reveals someone’s personally identifiable information. Instagram did not comment.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and there have been increasing reports that its soldiers have raped, sexually harrassed and abused Palestinian women in Gaza, some in front of members of their families.

Legal experts said the images of soldiers in women’s lingerie potentially breached international law.

Ardi Imseis, an assistant professor of law at Queen’s University in Canada, said the posts violated article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of civilians in wartime.

Article 27 says civilians are entitled to respect for their honour, family rights, manners and customs, and must be protected against insults and public curiosity, and that women must be especially protected against any attack on their honour.

READ: ‘Women in Gaza are being raped and this is not being investigated or reported’

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