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Sexual violence likely occurred during Hamas attack – UN


A UN inquiry team has found “reasonable grounds” to believe that sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred during the 7 October attacks by Hamas and other armed groups in Israel.

Presenting the findings to reporters at UN headquarters today, Pramila Patten, the Secretary General’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said that her team found the sexual violence had been carried out at three different locations including the Nova Music Festival site, a road along which festival-goers had tried to escape, as well as Kibbutz Re’im.

“We conducted confidential interviews with 34 people, including with survivors and witnesses of 7 October attacks, released hostages, first responders and service providers,” Ms Patten told reporters.

“And we also met with families and relatives of hostages still held in captivity, in addition to some other actors,” she said.

Ms Patten said her team had reviewed more than 5,000 photographic images and some 50 hours of footage of the attacks provided by various state agencies and their own independent online review of various open sources.

They also reviewed footage captured through militants’ body cams, dash cams, individual cell phones, CCTV and traffic surveillance cameras, she said.

The inquiry also found “convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment occurred against some women and children” and has reasonable grounds to believe that this violence may be ongoing, based on first-hand accounts of released hostages.

Further investigation needed – Patten

The inquiry team spent two-and-a-half weeks in Israel and the West Bank.

Ms Patten said they had been unable to interview survivors of sexual violence directly.

“We received information that a handful of them were receiving very specialized trauma treatment and were not prepared to come forward,” she told reporters.

Ms Patten said her team had also received information regarding “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinians, men and women in detention, also under the administrative detention, including sexual violence in the forms of invasive body searchers threats of rape and prolonged forced nudity”.

Ms Patten said further investigation was needed to establish the full scale of the sexual violence perpetrated.

She said that the prevalence of sexual violence may take “months or years to emerge and may never be fully known given that sexual violence remains a chronically underreported crime, in every conflict affected setting due to strong stigma and fear faced by survivors but also in the context of Israel, where many did not survive the sexual violence”.

Ms Patten added that she was “of the strong opinion” that her findings did not legitimise further violence as “continuing this war will not serve to protect hostages from further risk of sexual violence”.

“I think on the contrary, for the sake of the hostages, a ceasefire should be a priority,” she said.


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