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Monday, March 4, 2024

‘Widespread’ sexual and gender-based crimes dedicated throughout Hamas assault, Israeli officers say

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JERUSALEM — A person hiding in a pit in the course of the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on an outside music pageant in Israel mentioned he heard somebody close by screaming she was being raped. Elsewhere within the space, a fight paramedic noticed the physique of a younger girl together with her legs open, her pants pulled down, and what regarded like semen on her decrease again. A military reservist who was tasked with figuring out these killed by the militants mentioned a number of the girls had been discovered sporting solely bloodied underwear.

Such accounts given to The Related Press, together with first assessments by an Israeli rights group, present that sexual assault was a part of an atrocities-filled rampage by Hamas and different Gaza militants who killed about 1,200 folks, most of them civilians, and took greater than 240 hostages that day.

Whereas investigators are nonetheless making an attempt to find out the scope of the sexual assaults, Israel’s authorities is accusing the worldwide neighborhood, notably the United Nations, of ignoring the ache of Israeli victims.

“I say to the ladies’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli girls, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation — the place the hell are you?” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed a information convention Tuesday, switching to English to emphasise the purpose.

U.S. President Joe Biden referred to as the experiences of sexual violence “appalling” and urged the world to sentence “horrific accounts of unimaginable cruelty.”

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Two months after the Hamas assaults on the music pageant, farming communities and military posts in southern Israel, police are nonetheless struggling to place collectively the items.

Within the quick aftermath of the assaults, precedence was given to figuring out our bodies, to not preserving proof. Police say they’re combing via 60,000 movies seized from the physique cameras of Hamas attackers, from social media and from safety cameras in addition to 1,000 testimonies to convey the perpetrators to justice. It has been troublesome discovering rape survivors, with many victims killed by their attackers.

The group Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, which has a document of advocating for Palestinian civilians in Gaza struggling below Israel’s longtime blockade of the territory, printed an preliminary evaluation in November.

“What we all know for certain is that it was greater than only one case and it was widespread, in that this occurred in multiple location and greater than a handful of occasions,” Hadas Ziv, coverage and ethics director for the group, mentioned Tuesday. “What we don’t know and what the police are investigating is whether or not it was ordered to be performed and whether or not it was systematic.”

Hamas has rejected allegations that its gunmen dedicated sexual assault.

Ron Freger fled the music pageant when Hamas attacked and mentioned he heard a girl screaming for assist. “I used to be mendacity in a pit (and) I heard (a lady) yelling: ‘They’re raping me, they’re raping me!’” he instructed the AP.

A number of minutes later, he heard gunshots shut by and she or he fell silent, he mentioned. “The sensation in that second is certainly one of full powerlessness. I’m mendacity on this gap and I’ve no means to do something. I’ve no weapon, I’ve nothing, I’m surrounded by different people who find themselves hiding with me and we’re utterly powerless,” mentioned the 23-year-old from the northern Israeli city of Netanya.

Final month, Israel’s police chief offered to the worldwide information media videotaped testimony of a rape witness on the music pageant. Her face blurred, she mentioned she watched militants gang-rape a girl as she lay on the bottom. The boys then stood her up as blood trickled from her again, yanked her hair and sliced her breast, taking part in with it as they assaulted her. The final man shot her within the head whereas he was nonetheless inside her. The lady within the video described watching the militants as she pretended to be {dead}.

“I couldn’t perceive what I noticed,” she mentioned.

A fight medic instructed the AP that he got here throughout half a dozen our bodies of men and women with attainable indicators of sexual assault when he reached one of many attacked communities.

One lady had been shot within the head and was mendacity on the ground, her legs open and pants pulled down, with what regarded like semen on her decrease again, mentioned the medic who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of his unit was categorised. Different our bodies had mass bleeding across the groin with limbs at distorted angles, he mentioned.

On the Shura army base the place victims are being recognized, Shari Mendes, a member of the military reserve unit that offers with the identification and spiritual burial preparation of feminine troopers, mentioned a number of the girls’s our bodies got here in with little clothes, equivalent to elements of their pajamas. Some solely had bloodied underwear.

Based mostly on open-source data and interviews, the Physicians for Human Rights in Israel report paperwork incidents on the music pageant, properties across the Gaza Strip and an Israeli army base, all attacked by Hamas.

“It’s changing into extra obvious that the violence perpetrated towards girls, males and youngsters additionally included widespread sexual and gender-based crimes,” it says.

Earlier than this conflict, Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, wasn’t identified to make use of rape as a weapon, mentioned Colin P. Clarke, director of analysis at The Soufan Group, a world intelligence and safety consulting agency. Its ways included suicide bombings and capturing assaults on Israeli troopers and civilians.

A rustic like Israel ought to have the means to do rigorous testing to verify if folks had been sexually assaulted in a extra systematic manner, mentioned Nidhi Kapur, a specialist on sexual abuse in conditions of armed battle.

“Forensic testing ought to have been a precedence to construct a full image of the assault,” mentioned Kapur, who has labored within the area. “In a battle you first handle the survivors, you don’t rely our bodies.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu and members of his conflict cupboard held a tense and emotional assembly with lately launched hostages and relations of hostages nonetheless held in Gaza. Among the lately launched hostages shared testimonies of sexual abuse throughout their time in Gaza, individuals mentioned.

Individually, a health care provider who handled a number of the 110 launched hostages instructed the AP that at the very least 10 women and men amongst these freed had been sexually assaulted or abused, however didn’t present additional particulars. He spoke on situation of anonymity to guard the hostages’ identities.

In keeping with the Israeli army, 138 hostages, together with 15 girls, are nonetheless held by Hamas and different militant teams in Gaza. Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a army spokesman, mentioned the military is “completely” involved about sexual violence towards feminine hostages.

On Monday, Israel hosted a particular occasion on the United Nations, the place former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and high know-how govt Sheryl Sandberg had been amongst those that criticized what they referred to as a world failure to help girls who had been sexually assaulted and in some {cases} killed.

However some teams say Israel is not making it simple to research.

The Workplace of the U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights mentioned it requested entry to Israel and the Palestinian territories to permit it to gather data from the occasions that occurred on Oct. 7 and eight, and since then, however Israel has not responded to its requests, mentioned Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the U.N. Human Rights Workplace.

Israel says the workplace has preexisting biases towards Israel and it’ll not cooperate with the physique. Israeli officers mentioned they might contemplate all choices for impartial worldwide mechanisms to research.

Rights specialists say the United Nations is greatest positioned to conduct a good, credible and neutral investigation.

“These accounts are horrifying and deserve an pressing, thorough, and credible investigation,” mentioned Heather Barr, affiliate director for the ladies’s rights division at Human Rights Watch.


Related Press reporters Melanie Lidman, Julia Frankel and Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem; and Edith M. Lederer on the United Nations contributed to this report.

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