Two Israeli soldiers are accused of sexually harassing Palestinian women, and stealing money and personal belongings from Palestinians passing through a checkpoint in the central part of the occupied West Bank.
Israel’s English-language Haaretz daily newspaper reported that the suspects, who are serving in the Military Police Corps, had conducted searches of Palestinian women at the Qalandiya checkpoint next to Ramallah in violation of orders.
During the searches, the soldiers touched the women inappropriately and demanded that they strip. They also stole money from both women and men at the checkpoint.
A military court has extended their remand by a week and said their actions were motivated by racism.
The checkpoint in Qalandiya is often a hotspot of tension between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians as it is one of the main crossings into the West Bank.
Palestinians frequently complain of being brutalized, forced through cattle pens and interrogated while crossing through the checkpoint on their way to work or school.
The occupied territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump on December 6, 2017 announced Washington's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and said the US would move its embassy to the city.
The dramatic decision triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the world.
The status of Jerusalem al-Quds is the thorniest issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians see East Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of their future state.
Moreover, more than 185 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30. Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.
The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.
On June 13, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution, sponsored by Turkey and Algeria, condemning Israel for Palestinian civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip.
The resolution, which had been put forward on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, garnered a strong majority of 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with eight votes against and 45 abstentions.
It called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to make proposals within 60 days “on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection, and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation,” including “recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.”
The resolution also called for “immediate steps towards ending the closure and the restrictions imposed by Israel on movement and access into and out of the Gaza Strip.”