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UN agency accuses Israel of torturing and coercing employees into false confessions

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) accused Israel this Monday (4) of detaining and torturing some of its employees, coercing them into making false confessions about the agency's alleged connection with Hamas.

“Some of our employees conveyed to UNRWA teams that they were forced to [fazer] confessions under torture and ill-treatment. These false confessions were in response to questioning about relations between UNRWA and Hamas and involvement in the October 7 attack on Israel,” UNRWA spokeswoman Juliette Touma said in a statement.

Israel has accused at least 12 employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency of being involved in the October 7 terrorist attacks and has alleged that around 12% of UNRWA's 13,000 employees are members of Hamas or other Palestinian groups.

Israeli authorities said some of the information about the 12 employees believed to be involved on October 7 was obtained from cell phone data and other sources.

UNRWA says it has fired 10 of the 12 accused employees and that the other two are dead. A CNN could not confirm the accusations.

Touma highlighted that false confessions obtained “under torture” were being used “to further spread disinformation about the Agency as part of attempts to dismantle UNRWA”, but did not link these confessions to the allegations against the 12 officials accused of participating in the 7 of October.

Report with accusations against Israel

The accusations are part of a yet-to-be-published report compiled by UNRWA highlighting widespread physical and psychological abuse by Israel of Palestinians detained in the Gaza Strip during the war, including 21 UNRWA staff, some of whom said they were beaten and threatened.

The undisclosed report, a copy of which was obtained by CNN is based largely on the testimony of Gaza detainees in Israeli prisons and military facilities who were released back into Gaza at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between mid-December and mid-February.

A UNRWA spokesperson highlighted that when the report was leaked, the agency had not yet decided whether to release it publicly.

Detainees named in the report cited beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and threats of sexual violence against men and women detained by the Israeli military.

Some of these people are also reported to have died while in Israeli custody, sometimes allegedly as a result of the abuse they suffered while in detention.

A CNN could not independently verify all reports of abuse listed in the UNRWA report, but it has documented similar allegations of abuse by Palestinian detainees.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to accusations of torture and detention of UNRWA officials, but said in a statement that “the mistreatment of detainees during their time in detention or while under interrogation violates the values ​​of the IDF [Forças de Defesa de Israel] and are contrary to IDF orders and are therefore absolutely prohibited.”

They also noted that investigations into the deaths of detainees are being investigated by the military police and are ongoing.

Israel denies accusations

The Israeli military has vehemently denied allegations of sexual abuse of detainees, calling it “another cynical attempt to create a false equivalence with Hamas’ systematic use of rape as a weapon of war.”

He also denied that detainees are sleep deprived and said they have access to medical care.

UNRWA estimates that at least 4,000 Gazans have been detained by the Israeli military since the start of the war. As of February 19, the agency had documented the detention of 29 children and 80 women, as well as elderly people with Alzheimer's disease and people with intellectual disabilities.

“UNRWA has received widespread reports from released detainees of mistreatment at all stages of detention. According to individuals released from detention, the mistreatment was used in an attempt to extract information or confessions, to intimidate and humiliate, and to punish,” says the UNRWA report, which was first reported by the New York Times.

The report also highlights that in each of the monitored releases in Kerem Shalom, “ambulances were required to immediately transport someone due to their injuries or illness.”

Detainees reported being arrested and interrogated at military facilities in Israel, sometimes for weeks, before being transferred to the Israeli prison system.

Also according to the UNRWA report, some of these people reported having been stripped naked, handcuffed and kept in the cold, without access to bathing, food or water for more than 24 hours.

The detainees interviewed by CNN in December they also described similar treatment, saying they were detained for days with little access to food or water.

Source: CNN Brasil

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