UN team believes Hamas likely committed sexual violence in Israel

UN team believes Hamas likely committed sexual violence in Israel on October 7th

March 4, 2024

Updated 2 hours ago

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The Nova Festival was one of the scenes of alleged sexual violence on October 7th

A UN team has concluded that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, was committed during the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7.

They also said there was “compelling information” that hostages had been subjected to sexual violence.

The trip was led by Pramila Patten, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Hamas denied that its gunmen sexually abused women during the attacks.

“The mission team concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred in multiple locations during the October 7 attacks,” the UN report said.

This occurred in at least three locations – the Nova Music Festival site and surrounding area, Road 232 and Kibbutz Re'im, it said.

Hamas gunmen entered southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking 253 others hostage.

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, Israel responded with a military operation in Gaza that killed 30,500 people.

Reports of sexual violence by Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by Israel, Britain and other countries, emerged shortly after October 7 and have steadily increased since then.

Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of rape and sexual violence

In the report, the United Nations said it had found “clear and convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexual torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, was perpetrated against hostages.”

It also said it had “good reason to believe that such violence against those still in captivity may continue.”

The UN team visited Israel between January 29 and February 14.

The mission consisted of Ms. Patten and nine experts and was not investigative in nature but was designed to collect and verify allegations, the UN said.

Thirty-three meetings were held with Israeli officials and more than 5,000 photographic images and 50 hours of video footage were examined.

The report said the team was unable to interview any of them “despite concerted efforts to encourage victims to come forward.”

Some allegations of rape and sexual violence were “unfounded,” the report said, including the graphically publicized case of a pregnant woman whose uterus was reportedly ruptured and her fetus stabbed. Other reports could not be verified due to limited footage, the UN said.

In addition, it was not possible to establish a recognizable pattern of genital mutilation.

The UN report also described reports of sexual violence against Palestinians in Israeli custody, including “unwanted touching of intimate areas” and “persistent forced nudity.” The report said that while no cases of rape against Palestinians were reported, conservative cultural norms could have prevented reporting of sexual assaults.

“Israel welcomes the final recognition that Hamas committed sexual crimes,” said Lior Haiat, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, in response to the release of the report.

He added that Israel was now demanding “the meeting be called immediately.” [UN] Security Council with the aim of classifying Hamas as a terrorist organization and imposing international sanctions against it.

However, Mr. Haiat rejected the UN team's report that it also received information about sexual violence against Palestinian men and women in detention centers, during house searches and at checkpoints after October 7.

“This is a mocking and deliberate Palestinian maneuver aimed at creating an intolerable equation between the terrible crimes committed and continuing to be committed by Hamas and malicious and unfounded allegations against Israel and Israelis.”

Mr. Haiat also said Israel rejected the report's recommendation to cooperate with the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry, which is trying to conduct an investigation into possible war crimes committed by all sides.

He accused the investigation of being hostile to Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz recalled the country's UN ambassador for “consultations” on Monday, accusing the organization of an “attempt to silence the serious UN report on the mass rapes.”

He criticized UN Secretary-General António Guterres for not convening the Security Council to discuss the findings and declare Hamas a terrorist organization.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Mr. Guterres “fully supported” Ms. Patten’s work during her visit to Israel.

“The Secretary-General did not do anything to 'keep the report secret'. In fact, the report is being presented publicly today,” said Mr. Dujarric.