'Most victims don't speak up': Israeli soldiers 'regularly' strip-search Palestinian women
Several Palestinian women were forcibly strip-searched by Israeli forces in Hebron, south of the West Bank, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Tuesday.
The reported incident happened last July during an Israeli raid in the city, according to the report. The raid, conducted by some 50 soldiers with at least two police dogs, targeted a residential building, home to several families and a total of 26 inhabitants, 15 of whom are children aged between 4 and 17 years old.
In one incident, while searching one of the apartments, five female Israeli soldiers forced two Palestinian women into the children's room and forced them to strip completely naked in front of the children to be search, the report described.
A dreadful night in Hebron: Five Palestinian women subjected to a distressing ordeal, forced to undress by Israeli occupation soldiers during a raid at their home. #Palestine pic.twitter.com/G9cGHdrwVJ— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) September 5, 2023
This incident, which took place on 10 July, was documented the next day by local Palestinian human rights activists. One of them, Hisham Shrabati, told The New Arab that both women were "traumatised" when sharing their account.
"Both women struggled to share the details of their experience amidst a feeling of shame and fear", said Sharabati. "One of the women said that when she left the search room, she almost fainted."
"This is not an exceptional incident, and it is not the first case of this kind that I document in Hebron", said Sharabati.
"There are similar cases happening regularly, as the occupation forces raid Palestinian homes in Hebron on a daily basis”, he added.
Hebron |— Younis Tirawi | يونس (@ytirawi) September 4, 2023
Two armed Israeli soldiers with K9 dogs forced 5 Palestinian women after midnight, each one separately, to take off all their clothes and walk around naked in front 50 soldiers. The soldiers threatened to release the dog at them if they did not follow orders. https://t.co/RGA0LPSX0u
"Occupation forces violate Palestinians' privacy in many ways, and strip-search is one of them", noted Sharabati. "In fact, occupation forces use surveillance technology that makes strip-search unnecessary, like the 'Blue Wolf' facial recognition cameras, some of which are pointed towards the inside of Palestinian houses in Hebron."
"Many people who are subject to strip-search and other forms of humiliation by occupation forces don't share their experiences out of shame and fear of social stigma", Sharabati elaborated. "These practices cause social and psychological damage to people, that is not yet documented enough".
According to human rights activists, most cases of privacy violation and humiliating treatment by Israeli forces don't make their way to the media.
During a night raid in Hebron, 5 Palestinian women were subjected to a humiliating experience as they were forced by two female Israeli soldiers, accompanied by K9 dogs, to strip naked and walk in front of their children, who were screaming in fear.— PALESTINE ONLINE 🇵🇸 (@OnlinePalEng) September 4, 2023
The women were threatened to… pic.twitter.com/RPBwZTn8FJ
"When making a story public, we try to be cautious of not exposing the victims to being singled out", a human rights source who asked not to be named told TNA.
"These cases are not exceptional, and victims, who are many, prefer not to be exposed", said the source.
"Sometimes, making a case a media story singles out the victims, and as a result, other victims become more reluctant to share their experiences to be documented", they added.
Hebron is currently one of the main sites for Israeli military raids and confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinians, as around 500 illegal Israeli settlers and thousands of Israeli troops are based in the city's old town.