A team from the United Nations has said they believe it’s likely that sexual violence, which includes rape and gang rape, happened during the attacks carried out by Hamas in Israel on 7 October.

The team also said they have strong evidence that hostages were sexually assaulted.

Pramila Patten, who leads the UN team on Sexual Violence in Conflict, led the trip.

Hamas has denied that its fighters sexually assaulted women during the attacks.

The UN report said that the team found good reasons to believe that sexual violence related to the conflict happened in many places during the attacks on October 7th.

These incidents took place in at least three areas: around the Nova music festival site, along Road 232, and at Kibbutz Re’im.

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

Israel responded by launching a military campaign in Gaza, during which 30,500 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Reports of sexual violence carried out by Hamas – which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK and others – began to emerge soon after 7 October and have accumulated steadily ever since.

The Worlds Times has also seen and heard evidence of rape, sexual violence and mutilation of women.

Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of rape and sexual violence

The UN report said they found strong evidence that sexual violence, like rape and torture, happened to hostages. They also think it’s likely that this violence is still happening to people who are still being held captive.

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

The UN team, led by Ms. Patten and nine experts, wasn’t there to investigate but to gather and check information, the UN explained. They had 33 meetings with Israeli representatives, looked at over 5,000 photos, and watched 50 hours of videos.

Despite trying hard to get victims to talk, the team couldn’t interview any of them. Some claims of rape and violence were found to be untrue, like the case of a pregnant woman whose womb was said to be stabbed. Other reports couldn’t be confirmed because there weren’t enough pictures, the UN said.

They couldn’t find a clear pattern of genital mutilation.

The UN report also talked about sexual violence against Palestinians in Israeli custody. This included things like touching private areas and making them stay naked for a long time. The report said there were no reports of rape, but it might be hard for Palestinians to speak out because of their culture.

Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry, said that Israel is glad that Hamas is being recognized for committing sexual crimes. He also stated that Israel wants the UN Security Council to quickly meet and label Hamas as a terrorist group, and to put international sanctions on them.

However, Mr. Haiat disagreed with the UN team’s report that mentioned sexual violence against Palestinian men and women.

Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry, said that the Palestinians’ actions are trying to make Hamas’s crimes seem equal to baseless claims against Israel. Israel has rejected similar claims from independent UN experts before.

He also said Israel disagrees with a recommendation in the report to cooperate with the UN’s investigation into potential war crimes by all parties. Israel thinks the investigation is unfair to them.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister recalled the country’s ambassador to the UN, accusing the organization of trying to hide the serious UN report about the rapes. He criticized the UN Secretary General for not calling a Security Council meeting to talk about the findings and label Hamas as a terrorist group.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Secretary General supports Ms. Patten’s work and that the report is being made public.

Published: 5th March 2024

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