Footage of Hamas assault on civilians shows likely war crimes, experts say

Videos and photos document terrorists killing non-combatants, kidnapping elderly women and children, and suspected cases of sexual assault

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Graphic content: Israeli soldiers walk near the bodies of Israeli civilians killed by terrorists from Gaza in the southern city of Sderot on October 7, 2023. (Oren ZIV / AFP)
Graphic content: Israeli soldiers walk near the bodies of Israeli civilians killed by terrorists from Gaza in the southern city of Sderot on October 7, 2023. (Oren ZIV / AFP)

Video and photographic evidence of Hamas’s brutal assault on Saturday demonstrate in graphic detail what appear to be both war crimes and possible crimes against humanity carried out by the terror group, two Israeli experts said Sunday.

Photographic evidence has emerged of civilians shot dead at bus stops, on roads, and in their cars, while numerous videos have shown Israeli civilians, including mothers, elderly women, and children being abducted and taken captive to Gaza.

Two videos in particular have raised concerns of sexual assault against women, one of which shows a woman apparently bleeding into her shorts being taken out of a vehicle in Gaza; the woman is alive. The other video shows a woman stripped down to her underwear lying face down in a truck.

A large number of civilians are thought to be among the at least 700 dead in the surprise onslaught, which saw Hamas terrorists infiltrate several communities and a large outdoor rave.

Legal and security experts say the group’s actions constitute war crimes, and likely crimes against humanity, since the assault against civilians was so broad and deliberate.

“Hamas has committed a long list of crimes in this attack for which have been documented, including the killing of civilians, taking civilians captive, and abusing the bodies of civilians and soldiers,” said Prof. Yuval Shany, an expert in international law and a lecturer at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In one heart-rending video, a mother, father, son, and daughter are filmed by Hamas terrorists crying in their home on Kibbutz Beeri after their third child, a young girl, was killed in the terror assault.

Another video shows a young woman, later identified as Noa Argamani, being taken into Gaza by two terrorists on the back of a motorbike, as she reaches out for her boyfriend, also being marched into captivity.

Israeli Noa Argamani is seen being kidnapped by Hamas terrorist in the south on October 7, 2023. (Screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Another video showed the body of a dead soldier being mutilated.

The video of the woman stripped down to her underwear appears to be of Shani Louk, a German-Israeli citizen who was identified by her mother, and who had been attending the music festival which was staged close to Kibbutz Re’im.

Hamas operatives are seen celebrating and cheering in the pickup truck in which they had placed Louk’s body, which was contorted in an unnatural angle, while Palestinians surrounding the truck shouted, “Allahu Akbar” [God is greatest in Arabic]. Two of the men spit on her.

A separate video posted by Israel’s Foreign Ministry shows a red-haired woman being hauled out of a jeep full of terrorist operatives, and pulled along by her hair. The seat of her pants was stained red.

Another video shows terrorists abducting a young boy, while other videos and pictures show several elderly women having been kidnapped by terrorists and taken back to Gaza.

One such picture showed an elderly woman, later identified as 85-year old Yaffa Adar by her granddaughter Adva Adar on her Facebook page, surrounded by armed terrorists, as she was being driven to Gaza.

Palestinian terrorists kidnap an Israeli civilian, center, later identified as 85-year-old Yaffa Adar, from Kibbutz Kfar Aza into the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Hatem Ali)

Shany said that Hamas’ actions categorically constituted war crimes committed in a “blatant, wholesale, and clear manner” against Israel’s civilian population.

Asked about the apparently high number of women who have been kidnapped, Shany said it was too soon to know if there was a specific intent to target women by Hamas or if there was a pattern of sexual assault, noting that combat operations are ongoing and testimonies are yet to be taken.

He noted that rape and other sexual violence by armed forces also constitute war crimes.

He explained further that the Palestinian Authority had accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2015, which is tasked with prosecuting those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and that crimes committed by Palestinians can be prosecuted by that court.

He said he expects the ICC will investigate Hamas’ actions.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC opened investigations into 14 matters of concern over such crimes, including against non-state actors, such as militia leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The court also initiated an investigation into Israel’s actions against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The same probe was mandated to look into Hamas’s actions in Israel’s 2014 war with the group. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda suggested that both sides probably committed war crimes.

Israel has not ratified the Statute of Rome, which established the ICC, but responded to the court to claims made by the Palestinian Authority against it.

A demonstrators poses with a Palestinian flag outside the International Criminal Court (ICC) during a rally urging the court to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes in The Hague, Netherlands, November 29, 2019. (AP Photo/ Peter Dejong)

Dr. Eyal Pinko, a former senior security service official and researcher in national security at Bar Ilan University, noted that Israel has never filed a war crimes complaint to the ICC, despite Hamas’ long record of targeting civilians in its terror attacks, whether on the ground or in the tens of thousands of rockets it has fired at Israeli population centers.

He said that Hamas’ actions were clear examples of war crimes and that Israel should file war crimes claims to the ICC in order to bolster its international position, but added that he did not believe anything would come of such complaints.

He also condemned the government’s policy of allowing Qatar to pay for public sector wages, fuel, and other payments in Gaza, saying it did heavy damage to Israel’s ability to combat the terror group.

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