After 7 weeks of silence, UN chief calls to investigate Hamas sex crimes on Oct 7

Envoy Erdan slams lengthy delay, casting of doubt by Guterres on such incidents during terror onslaught in Israel, despite testimony from survivors, first responders, morgue workers

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers remarks during a Security Council open debate on the maintenance of international peace and security at the UN headquarters in New York on November 20, 2023. (Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers remarks during a Security Council open debate on the maintenance of international peace and security at the UN headquarters in New York on November 20, 2023. (Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres broke his silence on allegations of sex crimes carried out by Hamas terrorists on October 7, saying such reports must be investigated.

“There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” Guterres wrote on X, more than 50 days after the terror onslaught. “Gender-based violence must be condemned. Anytime. Anywhere.”

The tweet went further than similar comments he made a few hours earlier during a briefing to the UN Security Council, which failed to mention Hamas or terrorism and called the actions of October 7 simply “the attacks.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan slammed Guterres for taking close to eight weeks to finally speak up about the allegations.

“The Secretary-General’s words only sharpen the fact that when it comes to Israeli women, sexual violence that has been proven by state authorities still needs to be ‘investigated.'” wrote Erdan on X. “For him, when it comes to Israeli women, you can doubt the facts and wait 55 days to call an unknown party to conduct an ‘investigation.’”

Erdan suggested that Guterres was “merely trying to calm the justified anger of many around the world for his silence and the silence of the UN,” noting that the UN chief apparently felt no such need to doubt any claims made by Hamas and the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan holds footage from Hamas’s October 7 massacre, during an emergency meeting on the Israel-Hamas war at the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, October 26, 2023. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP)

The ambassador said the Israeli mission plans to hold an event next week at the UN where “we will present findings proving that Hamas committed sexual crimes,” and he invited Guterres to attend and “unequivocally condemn Hamas for committing these shocking crimes.”

Israeli officials have been furious at global human rights’ groups and women’s activist groups who have consistently dismissed evidence and testimony over sex abuse crimes carried out during the Hamas onslaught against southern Israel last month.

Guterres’s comments came just days after the UN office for women’s issues last week was slammed for posting and then deleting a condemnation of “the brutal attacks by Hamas on October 7.”

Sarah Hendriks, deputy director at UN Women, was pressed in a CNN interview on Wednesday about the group’s silence on the issue.

Hendriks said that the agency is “deeply alarmed at the disturbing reports of gender-based and sexual violence on October 7,” adding that “we absolutely unequivocally condemn all forms of violence against women and girls.”

CNN anchor Bianna Golodryga asked Hendriks why the group has failed to “specifically call out Hamas” in the wake of “mounting evidence now over seven weeks” from Israeli investigators about such crimes on October 7. In her response, Hendriks again failed to name Hamas and said the agency always supports an “impartial, independent investigation.”

On her X account, Hendriks has not once mentioned Hamas nor ever called out the allegations of rape and sexual abuse carried out by the terror group on October 7.

The main UN Women account did not make any mention of such reports until November 25, when it stated that it was “alarmed by gender-based violence reports on 7 Oct & call for rigorous investigation.” That followed weeks of calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and condemnation of Israel’s military campaign in the Strip, but no direct reference to the Hamas assault that prompted it.

Israeli women’s rights groups have slammed their international counterparts for ignoring the mounting evidence of such allegations.

“The very essence of gender equality and women empowerment groups worldwide is to assist victims of such atrocities. A pregnant woman was cut open and her unborn baby was shot. How could anyone stay silent when faced with such horrific acts?” said Orit Sulitzeanu, executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, in a conversation with The Times of Israel.

Israeli police investigators are currently building several sexual assault cases against Hamas terrorists who participated in the massacres in southern Israel on October 7, with the goal of eventually trying the perpetrators for rape and other crimes.

“We have multiple witnesses for several cases” of sexual abuse, David Katz, who heads cyber crime at Lahav 433, the Israel Police’s criminal investigation division, said earlier this month. In addition to witness testimony, Katz and police spokespeople said the police have video evidence, testimony from terrorists, and photographs of victims’ bodies that all point toward sexual assault.

A member of Zaka at the forensic center in the Shura military base near Ramle, where hundreds of dead bodies have arrived since the start of the war with Hamas, October 13, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

In the wake of the unprecedentedly large mass-casualty event, physical evidence of sexual assault was not collected from corpses by Israel’s overtaxed morgue facilities amid their ongoing scramble to identify the people killed, many of whose bodies were mutilated and burned.

There is significant evidence of systematic sexual abuse, but morgue officials have not designated individual cases as rape because of a lack of court-compliant physical proof. In addition to survivors’ testimony, a slew of Israeli officials, first responders, and morgue workers have stated that Hamas raped women as part of its assault. The Shin Bet has released clips from videotaped interrogations of captured Hamas perpetrators attesting to their orders to rape Jewish women.

The decision — made under war footing and a pressing need to identify the dead — to not use time-consuming crime scene investigation protocols to document rape cases has fueled international skepticism over Hamas’s sexual abuse of victims on October 7.

Most Popular
read more: