Hamas Accused of Sexual Crimes: UN Report Reveals Findings

The UN team has reported “convincing information” indicating that hostages in Gaza have been subjected to sexual violence, including rape and sexualized torture, with grounds to suspect ongoing abuse. Additionally, the team found “reasonable grounds to believe” that sexual violence, including gang rape, occurred during Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. Israel’s foreign ministry welcomed the acknowledgment of Hamas committing sexual crimes, urging the UN Security Council to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization and impose international sanctions.

Hamas has denied allegations of sexual assault by its gunmen during the attacks. However, the UN report states that it has “found clear and convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment has been committed against hostages.” The report also expresses concerns of ongoing violence against those still held in captivity following the infiltration by Hamas gunmen into southern Israel on October 7, resulting in casualties and hostage-taking.

The UN report states that conflict-related sexual violence occurred in multiple locations during the 7 October attacks, including the Nova music festival site and its surroundings, Road 232, and Kibbutz Re’im. Reports of sexual violence attributed to Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the UK, and others, have been emerging steadily since the 7 October incident. Israel responded to the attack by launching a military campaign in Gaza, resulting in casualties, with the Hamas-run health ministry reporting approximately 30,500 deaths.

Between January 29 and February 14, a United Nations (UN) team, led by Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten and consisting of nine experts, visited Israel. While the mission was not investigative, it aimed to gather and verify allegations related to sexual violence. The UN reported conducting 33 meetings with Israeli representatives, examining over 5,000 photographic images, and reviewing 50 hours of video footage. Despite efforts to encourage victims to come forward, the team could not interview any of them. The report clarified that certain allegations of rape and sexual violence were unfounded, including a widely publicized case of a pregnant woman. Limited imagery hindered the verification of other reports.

The UN report mentioned that it could not establish a discernible pattern of genital mutilation. It also highlighted allegations of sexual violence against Palestinians in Israeli custody, including unwanted touching and prolonged forced nudity. The report clarified that, while no instances of rape against Palestinians were reported, conservative cultural norms might have hindered reporting. Israel’s foreign ministry rejected this aspect of the report, calling it a deliberate Palestinian maneuver to create an intolerable equivalence between crimes committed by Hamas and baseless claims against Israel.

Israel has dismissed previous similar allegations by a UN panel, describing them as “despicable and unfounded.” Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry, expressed opposition to a recommendation in the recent report calling for cooperation with the UN’s international Commission of Inquiry, accusing the inquiry of hostility toward Israel. Additionally, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz recalled the country’s ambassador to the UN for “consultations,” criticizing the UN Secretary-General for not convening the Security Council to discuss the findings and designate Hamas as a terrorist organization.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric emphasized that Secretary-General António Guterres has wholeheartedly endorsed the efforts of Pramila Patten during her visit to Israel. He clarified that there was no attempt by the secretary-general to suppress the report, stating, “In no way, shape, or form did the secretary-general do anything to keep the report ‘quiet.’ In fact, the report is being presented publicly today.”

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