Israel committed human rights abuses in 2023, US State Department says

Annual report outlines abuses around the world

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has denied that the US held Israel to a different standard. AP
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A US State Department report released on Monday said Israel committed human rights abuses last year, including arbitrary killings and punitive home demolitions.

The annual report, which highlights human rights abuses around the world, outlined a series of violations that occurred in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories last year.

The 103-page section on Israel highlights arbitrary or unlawful killings, forced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests and detentions.

It pointed to Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s efforts to “make prisoners’ living spaces more crowded”.

It also included statements Mr Ben-Gvir made on November 14 that “confirmed the detainees were, according to his instructions, shackled in dark cells with seven other prisoners and subjected to harsh living conditions”.

The report also notes the relocation of Palestinian prisoners detained in the West Bank and Gaza to centres in Israel.

“Some human rights groups, including MCW, claimed the country’s detention of the majority of convicted Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza in prisons inside Israel was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and raised concerns that relocations made it more difficult for the family members of Palestinians to visit their loved ones in detention,” the report said.

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The document said there was a 7 per cent increase in punitive home demolitions in 2022, the most recent year data was available.

“Several human rights groups and the United Nations stated the authorities’ punitive demolitions were a form of collective punishment that violated the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the State Department said.

While the report only takes into consideration events up until December 31, 2023, it said that “significant conflict-related abuses were documented throughout the year”.

According to local health authorities, more than 34,100 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its military operation after the October 7 Hamas-led attacks killed 1,200.

The war has been by far the deadliest iteration of the decades-long conflict.

Washington has been Israel’s fiercest supporter, continuing to send it military aid and coming to its defence at the UN.

But as the death toll in Gaza has mounted, President Joe Biden's administration has come under increasing pressure to rein Israel in.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday denied that the US held Israel to a different standard, pointing to the findings of the report.

“As this report makes clear, in general, as we're looking at human rights and the condition of human rights around the world, we apply the same standard to everyone,” he said.

“And that doesn't change whether the country in question is an adversary or competitor, a friend or an ally.”

Mr Blinken said the State Department had interior processes “that are looking at incidents that have been raised and those processes are ongoing”.

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Updated: April 22, 2024, 8:51 PM