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UNRWA staffers tortured by Israeli troops to falsely admit ‘Hamas links’

Originally published: The Cradle on March 9, 2024 by The Cradle Staff (more by The Cradle)  | (Posted Mar 12, 2024)

An unpublished report from UNRWA said some of its employees released from Israeli detention were tortured into falsely stating that the agency has Hamas links and that staff took part in the 7 October attacks, Reuters reported on 9 March.

The testimonies are contained in a report by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reviewed by Reuters and dated February 2024.

“Agency staff members have been subject to threats and coercion by the Israeli authorities while in detention and pressured to make false statements against the Agency, including that the Agency has affiliations with Hamas and that UNRWA staff members took part in the 7 October 2023 atrocities,” the report says.

The report included allegations of abuse and torture in Israeli detention, including severe physical beatings, waterboarding, and threats of harm to family members.

Though waterboarding is widely viewed as torture by human rights groups, the Reuters report described Israeli actions only as “coercion” and “pressure” to force detained Palestinians to make false statements.

In addition to describing the torture of UNRWA employees, the report stated that Israel has subjected Palestinian detainees more broadly to beatings, humiliation, threats, dog attacks, and sexual violence. Some detainees have also died after Israel denied them medical treatment, the report added.

UNRWA communications director Juliette Touma said the agency planned to hand the information in the 11-page, unpublished report to human rights investigators at UN agencies and outside rights groups.

“When the war comes to an end there needs to be a series of inquiries to look into all violations of human rights,” she said.

Amid the torture and medical neglect, 27 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons since the start of the war on 7 October.

Israel has accused UNRWA employees of participation in the 7 October Hamas attack on Israeli settlements and military bases. Israel provided no evidence for the claim, but 16 countries, including the U.S., paused $450 million in UNRWA funding in response, throwing its aid operations into crisis just as starvation was beginning to grip Gaza.

Israel’s campaign against UNRWA is part of a broader campaign started years ago to dismantle the agency, which helps keep the hope of Palestinian refugees returning to their stolen lands and homes in what is now Israel alive.

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