A United Nations envoy vowed to use all means at her disposal to secure the release of hostages held by terror groups in the Gaza Strip as she paid a visit to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum on Wednesday, according to media reports.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, met with hostages who were freed from Hamas captivity and relatives of those still held hostage by terror groups in Gaza after being taken captive on October 7.
Ynet news reported that Patten heard testimonies from the freed hostages and the family representatives, and promised to work for the release of the 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 believed to remain in Gaza.
Later she met with Capt. (Res.) Avigail Bar Asher, head of the Military Rabbinate’s Casualty Identification Team at the IDF’s Shura base near Ramle, to hear testimony of processing forensic evidence from the the October 7 massacres.
Patten was in Israel to probe a wave of allegations of Hamas sexual violence on October 7, collect details and “identify avenues for support,” according to the UN secretary-general’s spokesman.
During her trip, Patten was scheduled to meet survivors, witnesses and representatives of security forces to collect evidence of sexual violence committed against women and men during the Hamas shock attack of October 7, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
According to international law, the use of sexual violence is considered a war crime. Thank you UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, for visiting Israel with the aim of studying closely the horrific, systematic, and extensive sexual and… pic.twitter.com/BGIRfUzWGX
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) January 29, 2024
The UN envoy was also expected to tour southern Israel, where thousands of Palestinian terrorists unleashed their attack, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The terrorists slaughtered entire families in their homes, raped and sexually assaulted victims, and tortured or mutilated some during the hours-long killing spree.
During the attack, terrorists also seized 253 hostages, of whom Israel believes 132 remain in Gaza.
Israel has criticized the UN for not responding quickly enough to victims’ accounts of rape and sexual assault during Hamas’s incursion into Israel.
Israeli authorities are investigating sexual crimes during what was the most deadly attack ever on the country, amid overwhelming evidence from eyewitnesses and from footage recorded by the Palestinian terror group itself.
In addition to witness testimony, police have video evidence, testimony from terrorists, and photographs of victims’ bodies that all point toward sexual assault.
Freed hostages have also detailed accounts of sexual assault.
Following the October 7 attack, Israel launched a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas that has killed at least 26,000 people in the Palestinian enclave, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.
The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.
AFP contributed to this report.