UN chief calls for investigation into allegations of sexual violence committed by Hamas
Witnesses say that women and girls caught in the rampage were brutalized sexually, as well as physically tortured and killed
NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an investigation into the allegations of sexual violence committed by Hamas during the October 7 attack on Israel, the Times of Israel reported.
Guterres wrote on X: "There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on October 7 that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. Gender-based violence must be condemned. Anytime. Anywhere."
Israel's Foreign Ministry tore into the women's rights group UN Women last week for taking 50 days to comment on the evidence of sexual violence perpetrated during Hamas's onslaught last month, only to issue a brief statement expressing "alarm" on the matter, then delete the post, as per The Times of Israel.
On Instagram, UN Women posted the condemnation of Hamas before deleting it shortly after, and replacing it with a call to release all hostages in Gaza. Recently, it was reported that the Israeli police is using forensic evidence, video, witness testimony and interrogations of suspects to document cases of sexual violence committed by Hamas as part of the October 7 attack on Israel, as per CNN.
Witnesses say that women and girls caught in the rampage were brutalized sexually, as well as physically tortured and killed. Police Superintendent Dudi Katz said officers have collected more than 1,000 statements and more than 60,000 video clips related to the attacks that include accounts from people who reported seeing women raped.
He added that investigators do not have firsthand testimony and it is not clear whether any rape victims survived. About 1,200 Israelis were killed and more injured that day in villages and farms near Gaza when Hamas militants struck across the border in coordinated attacks, taking more than 240 hostages and precipitating the current war. Police Commissioner Shabtai Yaakov said the investigation could potentially lead to prosecutions, but for now, documentation is the primary mission.
A human rights law expert at Hebrew University Cochav Elkayam-Levy has formed a civil commission with colleagues to document evidence of the atrocities, fearing that as the war devastates Gaza and the lives of thousands of Palestinians, the world seems willing to look over the violence against Israeli women and girls.
"We'll never know everything that has happened to them," Elkayam-Levy told CNN. "We know that most women who were raped and who were sexually assaulted were also murdered."
She pointed to a United Nations statement just a week after the terror attacks that did not mention sexual violence. "It's much worse than just silence or an insult to us as Israeli women and to our children and to our people. When they are failing to acknowledge us, to acknowledge what happened here, they are failing humanity," she said of the UN, as per CNN.