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Israel investigates allegation its forces sexually violated Palestinian woman

Friend of the unnamed alleged victim says she was humiliated by needlessly invasive search under Shin Bet officer's instructions
The shadows of Palestinian women are cast on a wall as they wait to cross toward Jerusalem through Israel's Qalandiya checkpoint, outside the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Reuters)

An Israeli justice ministry panel is investigating an incident from 2015 in which soldiers arresting a Palestinian woman in the occupied West Bank allegedly penetrated her, Haaretz reports.

The invasive search was described as unwarranted and unnecessary. 

The case had originally been dismissed by the unit charged with investigating complaints against the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security services.

Thousands of similar complaints have also previously been dismissed. However, an additional review of the case facts has led to an official probe of the 2015 incident.

According to new details revealed in Haaretz, the incident occurred when Israeli forces entered the Palestinian woman's home in the West Bank in the middle of the night, found her in her room, and arrested her on suspicion of aiding and abetting "terrorist activities".

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The woman says that at that point, a Shin Bet commander ordered two female Israeli soldiers to take her aside and search her body cavities.

The two soldiers removed her clothes, and then each of them probed her, both vaginally and anally, the woman alleges.

According to the report, both the Shin Bet commander and an Israeli army officer were present at the scene.

It is not clear who any of the people involved are. The woman's identity has been withheld by Haaretz due to concerns about her security.

'Humiliated and helpless'

"She was humiliated and helpless in the face of the Shin Bet agent who ran the operation and the soldiers," an unnamed friend of the Palestinian woman told Haaretz.

"After the incident, she was in shock. Till this day, she can't forget it, and neither can she tell anyone about it. She fears that her family would not take it well, that they might get angry with her for not resisting.

"Without question, there was no reason for the humiliating search, which amounted to serious sex crimes," the friend added.

Without question, there was no reason for the humiliating search, which amounted to serious sex crimes

- Friend of the alleged victim

The Palestinian women made a complaint at the time. Despite this, she was sentenced to two years in prison, convicted for minor offences.

Upon her release in 2017, the head of the complaints unit attempted to follow up on the case, but the Palestinian woman wanted no further contact with Israeli security officials.

She was rearrested by Israeli forces a short time later, however, on suspicion of involvement in another attack.

Under Israeli custody, she was again asked about the 2015 incident, and this testimony prompted the justice ministry unit to open a probe into possible wrongdoing.

The results of the new investigation have been passed on to Israel's attorney-general.

It is unclear if charges will be pressed, either for an illegitimate use of authority, or for sex crimes, including rape.

The Israeli army's spokesman has not responded to requests from Haaretz for comment.

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