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UN report validates allegations of Hamas sexual violence



JTA – A United Nations (UN) report validated Israeli reports of sexual violence committed by Hamas during its 7 October invasion of Israel and afterward, including instances of rape.

The 24-page report, based on a 17-day investigation spanning January and February, supports a claim that Israel and its supporters have stressed in the months since 7 October: that rape and sexual assault were part and parcel of the atrocities committed by Hamas.

But the report has also angered the Israeli government, which has accused the UN of seeking to bury it.

The report, compiled by a team led by Special Representative Pramila Patten, was written based on dozens of interviews, visits to the sites of 7 October massacres, and consultations with Israeli investigative and law-enforcement bodies. Although the team didn’t speak to any survivors of sexual violence, it concluded in graphic terms that such violence had occurred or, in the case of hostages, may be ongoing. The report said that there were reasonable or verified claims of rape or gang rape in at least three places.

“[T]here are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred during the 7 October attacks in multiple locations across Gaza periphery,” the report said. “Across the various locations of the 7 October attacks, the team found that several fully naked or partially naked bodies from the waist down were recovered – mostly women – with hands tied and shot multiple times, often in the head.”

The report added that, in terms of the more than 250 hostages taken to Gaza, there’s “clear and convincing information that some have been subjected to various forms of conflict-related sexual violence including rape and sexualised torture and sexualised cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and it also has reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing”.

Some pro-Palestinian activists have denied that widespread sexual violence occurred. A lengthy New York Times report detailing allegations of sexual violence on 7 October has also come under scrutiny.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz reacted to the report’s publication with outrage, writing on X that he had recalled Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan for consultation, and accusing UN officials of an attempt to silence it.

Katz took aim at UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, writing, “Although he has the authority to do so, the UN Secretary-General hasn’t convened the security council to declare Hamas a terrorist group and place sanctions on its supporters.”

A UN spokesman denied that Guterres sought to obscure the report. “In no way, shape, or form did the secretary-general do anything to keep the report quiet,” Stephane Dujarric was quoted as saying by Reuters.

And shortly after the report was published, Lior Haiat, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, had a more positive reaction, welcoming “the definitive recognition that Hamas committed sexual crimes by an official UN representative”.

But Haiat rejected claims of Israeli sexual violence toward Palestinians during the war, and made the same demands of the security council as Katz did.

The report described the difficulties Patten’s team faced during its inquiry, including the mutilation of some corpses and the difficulties of forensic teams in gathering evidence in the aftermath. She also described distrust among victims toward international bodies including the UN. Patten wrote that the team learned of a “small number of survivors” who are “still experiencing an overwhelming level of trauma”.

Hadassah, the women’s Zionist movement, said the report fell short in at least one respect: in Patten’s recommendation that UN bodies with a history of acting adversarially toward Israel further investigate the charges.

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