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Israeli soldiers play with Gaza women’s underwear in online posts

ISRAELI soldiers have been posting photos and videos of themselves toying with lingerie found in Palestinian homes, creating a dissonant visual record of the war in Gaza as a looming famine intensifies world scrutiny of Israel’s offensive.

In one video, an Israeli soldier sits in an armchair in a room in Gaza grinning, with a gun in one hand and dangling white satin underwear from the other over the open mouth of a comrade lying on a sofa.

Elsewhere, another soldier sits atop a tank holding a female mannequin dressed in a black bra and helmet and says: “I found a beautiful wife, serious relationship in Gaza, great woman.”

The two videos shot by Israeli soldiers are among dozens of posts in which troops in Gaza are shown displaying lingerie, mannequins, and in some cases both. The lingerie images have been viewed tens of thousands of times – nearly half a million in one case – after being reposted by Younis Tirawi, who describes himself as a Palestinian reporter.

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Approached about images he reposted to his more than 100,000 followers on X between February 23 and March 1, Tirawi provided links to the original posts by IDF soldiers. Reuters then independently verified eight posted on Instagram or YouTube.

“The posting of such images is demeaning to Palestinian women, and all women,” said Ravina Shamdasani, U.N. Human Rights Office spokesperson.

Reuters sent details of the eight verified posts on YouTube or Instagram to the Israel Defense Forces, requesting comment.

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In response, a spokesperson sent a statement saying the IDF investigates incidents that deviate from the orders and expected values of IDF soldiers, as well as reports of videos uploaded to social networks.

“In cases where suspicion of a criminal offence arises that justifies opening an investigation, an investigation is opened by the Military Police,” it said.

“It should be clarified that in some of the examined cases, it is concluded that the expression or behaviour of the soldiers in the video is inappropriate, and it is handled accordingly,” the statement said.

The IDF declined to say whether it was referring to any of the images highlighted by Reuters, or whether any of the soldiers responsible have been disciplined.

The Israeli soldiers whom Reuters was able to identify did not respond to requests for comment sent via their social media accounts.

MANNEQUINS AND UNDERWEAR

The authenticated posts include a photo of a soldier holding a bare female mannequin from behind with his hands on its breasts and one of a soldier handling a half-naked doll.

One photo shows a soldier posing with his gun, making a thumbs-up gesture, in front of a double bed strewn with packets of women’s underwear.

YouTube said it had removed a video flagged by Reuters for violating the platform’s harassment policies, which prohibit content that reveals someone’s personally identifiable information. Instagram did not comment.

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Israel’s military campaign in Gaza was launched in response to an attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on October 7 in which militants killed about 1,200 people and took 253 hostage, according to Israel.

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The posts come at a time when Hamas and Israel are both being accused of grave war crimes. A team of U.N. experts said this month in a report that there were reasonable grounds to believe sexual violence, including rapes and gang rapes, occurred at several locations during the October 7 attack by Hamas.

The experts also said there was convincing information that some Israeli hostages taken to Gaza had been subjected to sexual violence which may still be ongoing.

Israel stands accused of pushing Gaza towards famine. The team of U.N. experts also said in its recent report that it had received information from institutional and civil society sources and direct interviews in the West Bank about sexual violence against Palestinians by the IDF.

Both sides reject accusations of sexual violence.

The lingerie and mannequin posts do not compare in gravity to the alleged crimes against women reported since Oct. 7. Still, two legal experts said they potentially breached international law.

Ardi Imseis, an assistant professor of law at Queen’s University in Canada, said the posts violated Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of civilians in wartime.

Article 27 says civilians are entitled to respect for their honour, family rights, manners and customs, and must be protected against insults and public curiosity, and that women must be especially protected against any attack on their honour.

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Within Israel, the lingerie posts have attracted little attention, said Oren Persico of the Seventh Eye, a website covering Israeli media. By contrast, he said, posts showing weapons or Hamas flags said to have been found in Gazan homes have been circulating widely.

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By ESTELLE SHIRBON and POLA GRZANKA

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