Hamas raped and sexually assaulted hostages it took during the terrorist attack against Israel on Oct. 7 that left 1,200 civilians dead, the United Nations (U.N.) said on Monday.

A high number of eyewitness accounts and a series of investigations by Israel found that Hamas committed widespread sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attacks. There is now “clear and convincing information” that Hamas committed these same atrocities against the hostages it took back to Gaza, “including rape and sexualized torture and sexualized cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” according to a U.N. inquiry, the results of which were released Monday.

There are currently over 130 hostages remaining in Gaza, though it is unknown whether some are still alive. Hamas’ sexual violence against the hostages “may be ongoing,” according to the U.N.

The inquiry was compiled by a team of U.N. officials who conducted 33 meetings with Israeli officials and 34 confidential interviews with survivors of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, first responders and freed hostages. It also examined 5,000 photographs and 50 hours of video footage.

The inquiry also found that Hamas committed rape and gang rape against victims in several locations on Oct. 7, including the Nova music festival site and the surrounding Road 232 and Kibbutz Re’im. In the majority of instances, the U.N. said, “victims first subjected to rape were then killed, and at least two incidents relate to the rape of women’s corpses.”

“The true prevalence of sexual violence during the 7 October attacks and their aftermath may take months or years to emerge and may never be fully known,” reads the U.N. inquiry report.

The U.N. previously faced criticism for waiting to condemn the sexual violence committed by Hamas.

“It took the United Nations five months to finally recognize the sexual crimes committed on October 7th during Hamas’ massacre,” Israel Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan said on Monday. “Today, with the release of the report on the sexual abuse that Israeli female hostages are enduring, the shame of the UN is on clear display.”

Israel had previously received over 1,000 testimonies about Hamas’ horrific sexual violence on Oct. 7, and an investigation into the matter is still ongoing. The Physicians for Human Rights Israel conducted an initial assessment and found Hamas had committed sexual violence on a mass scale against women, men and children.

Israel is currently carrying out a sweeping counteroffensive operation in Gaza to eradicate Hamas from the region. At the same time, Israel, the U.S., Qatar and Egypt are all working to secure a deal with Hamas to release the remaining hostages from Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid to the region in exchange for a temporary ceasefire.

Israel has been adamant that a full-scale ceasefire is not an option until Hamas suffers complete destruction.

Jake Smith on March 4, 2024

 

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