FM Cohen: UN Women’s condemnation of Hamas attacks ‘tepid and late,’ chief should quit

Diplomat says UN investigation into sexual violence on October 7 should be led by neutral body, not panel made up of ‘Israel-haters and antisemites’

Executive leadership of UN Women, from left: Sima Bahous, Sarah Hendriks, and Moez Doraid (UN Women Screenshot)
Executive leadership of UN Women, from left: Sima Bahous, Sarah Hendriks, and Moez Doraid (UN Women Screenshot)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Saturday panned the United Nations’ rights body UN Women after it took 57 days to condemn the devastating October 7 Hamas assault on Israel and the sexual violence employed by the terrorists during the attack.

He also called on its executive director Sima Bahous, a Jordanian national, to quit.

“The behavior of UN Women since the massacre on October 7 has been shameful,” Cohen wrote.

“Their statement is tepid and late, coming after nearly two months of silence and turning a blind eye to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and sexual crimes committed by the Hamas terror group,” he said.

UN Women issued a statement earlier in the day condemning the Hamas terror group, nearly two months after the terror group slaughtered some 1,200 Israelis — mostly civilians — and kidnapped over 240. The organization had faced weeks of criticism over its silence over evidence of sexual violence during the attack.

The UN Women statement led with “regret” that fighting had resumed between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, after a seven-day truce that saw 105 civilian hostages released from Gaza in exchange for 210 Palestinian prisoners.

File: Foreign Minister Eli Cohen seen during an interview in Jerusalem, June 12, 2023 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

“We unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on 7 October. We are alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks,” the statement continued.

It went on to laud an ongoing UN commission of inquiry into the Israel-Palestinian conflict for “opening its call for submissions on gender-based crimes since October 7.”

Cohen slammed this decision too, saying that body was “made up of notorious antisemites” and that an investigation into the crimes should be carried out by a neutral body, not “Israel-haters and antisemites.”

UN Women’s condemnation came over a week after the group posted and then deleted on Instagram a condemnation of “the brutal attacks by Hamas on October 7.”

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

Hendriks said that the agency was “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[s] 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 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 in southern Israel last month.

Women stand in a human chain calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza in Tel Aviv, November 12, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The UN Women statement came two days after 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.

His 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.

He 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.”

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)

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.

An unnamed Israeli official told the Walla news site on Friday that Hamas doesn’t want to release the remaining female hostages because it doesn’t want them speaking publicly about what they endured on October 7 and during their time in captivity.

Fighting renewed on Friday after Hamas violated the temporary truce with Israel on Friday by failing to provide by 7 a.m. a list of hostages it intended to release that day as stipulated in the agreement that had been in place since the previous Friday, and also fired rockets at Israeli communities prior to that time.

Jacob Magid and Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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