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Canada pledges help for Palestinian sex-crime victims, angering Israeli envoy

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has announced funding for Palestinian women who have survived sexual violence, drawing an immediate rebuke from a senior Israeli official.

Joly pledged $1 million for women from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip whom her office described as “survivors of sexual violence, no matter the circumstance.”

Joly’s office would not say whether Canada believes Israeli forces are perpetrating sexual violence on women in Gaza, nor if the funding pertains to domestic abuse in the Palestinian territories.

She made the announcement on the X social-media platform and was criticized within minutes by Israel’s envoy for combating antisemitism.

Michal Cotler-Wunsh wrote that the funding is “supporting blood-libel inversion of fact” that will fuel rising anti-Jewish sentiment.

Earlier this week, Joly announced the same amount of money to support Israeli women who have been victims of sexual violence by Hamas.

Last month, a group of United Nations experts said they were distressed by unconfirmed reports that Palestinian women and girls in Israeli detention have faced sexual assault. 

The accusations included two reports of rape, threats of sexual assault and strip searches by male Israeli soldiers. The experts said they were seeking an impartial investigation into the allegations.

It is unclear which groups will receive the funding announced for women in each region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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