Sexual assaults carried out ‘systematically’ during Hamas attack, Israeli report says

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Israeli civilians suffered “brutal sexual assaults” that were carried out “systematically and deliberately” during Hamas’ October 7 attacks, according to a report published by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) on Wednesday.

The report, which includes testimonies from eyewitnesses, first responders, forensic experts, and news articles, says Hamas militants who entered Israel used extreme acts of sexual violence against their victims and, in most cases, killed them “after or even during the rape.”

The report does not detail how many cases of sexual assault it has documented nor is it clear if it spoke to victims, although it notes that in most cases “the victims were killed after or even during the rape.”

“Many of those who have been raped and tortured were murdered, unable to ever voice their experiences. When most of the victims of sexual assaults are murdered, we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to amplify their silent cry,” the report said.

According to evidence collected by the ARCCI, men, women, and children were all victims of gruesome sexual abuse on October 7. The report outlines witness testimony of the brutality of the sexual crimes, including that of gang rape at the Nova music festival, in the desert of southern Israel.

The report said that “several survivors of the massacre (Nova) provided eyewitness testimony of gang rape, where women were abused and handled between multiple terrorists who beat, injured, and ultimately killed them.”

Furthermore, some rapes were carried out in front of an “audience” of the victims’ partners, family, or friends, intended to “increase pain and humiliation of all present,” the report said.

Testimony from first responders and forensic experts who spoke to the ARCCI revealed that the genitals of several bodies were mutilated. Some victims in the communities near the Gaza Strip, the report said, were women or young girls “who were raped, mostly in their bedrooms, while partially dressed in their pajamas.”

Two former hostages who were released in late November described witnessing and hearing about other hostages being assaulted while in captivity, according to their testimony, which the report emphasizes is likely continuing to happen to the hostages that remain in Gaza.

The ARCCI is an umbrella organization for nine regional Rape Crisis Centers. It is the only organization in Israel whose main aim is to combat sexual violence, according to its website.

Israeli police have been using forensic evidence, video, witness testimony and interrogations of suspects to document cases of rape amid the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Orit Sulitzeanu, CEO of ARCCI, said the report had been “submitted to decision-makers at the UN [United Nations],” according to a release by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

UN Women released a statement in December condemning the attacks and saying it was “alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks.” At the time, it was criticized for being slow to denounce the reports of rape against Israelis.

On Monday, UN experts called for an investigation into what they described as “credible allegations of egregious human rights violations” against Palestinian women and girls in Gaza and the West Bank by Israeli forces.

The allegations include extrajudicial killing, arbitrary detention, degrading treatment, rape and sexual violence, according to a statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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