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Sexual violence on 7 October – a clear Hamas strategy

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Warning: Graphic content

“The sexual abuse that occurred on 7 October wasn’t made up of isolated incidents or sporadic cases but was rather a clear operational strategy carried out by Hamas.”

So said advocate Carmit Klar-Chalamish, the head of the research department at the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) at a webinar hosted by the Women’s Action Campaign South Africa on 25 June.

Similarly, the head of communications in the Israeli Police, Chief Superintendent Advocate Mirit Ben Mayor described her experience as a police officer on 7 October, and how the police had reacted to the events that day and in the months since while investigating everything that occurred that day.

“We have more than 5 000 visuals to show that every terrorist who took part in the 7 October attacks knew exactly where they were going and what they were doing,” said Ben Mayor.

Ben Mayor said it was the police officers who sprang into action, fighting with whatever they could to save those around them and combat terrorists.

“Israeli police understood very quickly that we had a massive attack on our hands. At first, we thought we had tens of people murdered, then the numbers were just going up and up as the day progressed,” Ben Mayor said. “Families were losing touch with their loved ones. They had no idea where they were, if they were alive, if they were hiding, if they had been kidnapped. We had no idea what was going on. Therefore, that night, we opened a family centre.”

This centre was a way for family members and friends to find information and give DNA evidence to police officers so they could try and find their loved ones.

Said Chalamish, “One of the survivors of the Nova festival described how from her hiding place she saw a large group of Hamas terrorists passing injured women between them. She saw a young woman being pulled by one terrorist by her hair while another terrorist was penetrating her. Each time the woman resisted, the terrorist stomped on her neck.

“In some cases, the sexual abuse took place in front of family members or friends, who were forced to watch it under threat to their life or that of the victim.”

Chalamish said that a witness at the Nova festival described cases in which the terrorists shot victims in the head during the rape or immediately afterwards.

Research detailing the sexual violence committed on 7 October by ARCCI shows evidence of binding and tying of bodies, mutilation and destruction of genital organs, insertion of weapons in intimate areas, and the destruction and mutilation of bodies like beheadings of victims of the Hamas terrorists, according to Chalamish.

“These tactics were used to intensify the degradation and terror of sexual assault physically and symbolically,” said Chalamish.

“A lot of the bodies that were collected and brought to an identification centre were shot in the head, and/or their genitals,” said Ben Mayor. “First responders found men and women shot in their genitals, they found burned bodies. Some bodies were mutilated beyond recognition.”

“It’s difficult to get evidence from that day, especially regarding sexual violence,” said Ben Mayor. “Hardly any of the victims of this violence are alive, so we’re relying on eyewitnesses to these atrocities.”

Both Chalamish and Ben Mayor say that their organisations don’t try to push victims to come forward if they aren’t comfortable doing so.

Ben Mayor has been part of the investigation team trying to bring justice to the victims of these crimes. “The terrorists don’t regret what they did on 7 October. They are quite proud of what they did, including the sexual acts.”

“The terrorists explained in our interrogations that they were told to maim, kill, and rape as many people as they could,” said Ben Mayor.

To those who say that these atrocities didn’t happen, both Ben Mayor and Chalamish say that they wish it was fake.

“You can choose to believe us or not, but there’s no logic in making this kind of stuff up,” Ben Mayor said.

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