GENEVA, Switzerland — UN experts on Monday demanded accountability for sexual violence against Israeli civilians during the October 7 Hamas onslaught, saying that mounting evidence of rapes and genital mutilation point to possible crimes against humanity.
Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into sexual crimes during the most deadly attack ever on the country. Hamas denies the abuses despite overwhelming evidence from eyewitnesses and from footage recorded by the Palestinian terror group itself. The New York Times has said the sexual mutilation was systematic, based on a two-month investigation.
“The growing body of evidence about reported sexual violence is particularly harrowing,” two UN-appointed independent experts said in a statement on Monday, referring to allegations of sexual torture including rape and gang rape as well as mutilations and gunshots to genital areas.
“These acts constitute gross violations of international law, amounting to war crimes which, given the number of victims and the extensive premeditation and planning of the attacks, may also qualify as crimes against humanity,” the experts said.
“Each and every victim deserves to be recognized, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or sex, and our role is to be their voice,” they added.
Israel has previously criticized the global body for not doing enough to address the issue.
The two experts on torture and executions, Alice Jill Edwards and Morris Tidball-Binz, have raised the issue with Hamas authorities, they said.
They have also written to Israel’s government and called for cooperation with their investigators.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, came under intense fire for an October 13 statement that equated Hamas’s terror onslaught with Israel’s military response in the Gaza Strip, while failing to mention the terror group by name or address its sexual assaults.
Then, the organization late last month posted on Instagram a condemnation of “the brutal attacks by Hamas on October 7” — only to delete it shortly after.
On December 1, UN Women released another statement that began by expressing “deep regret” that Israeli operations had resumed in Gaza, and reiterated that “women, Israeli women, Palestinian women, as all others, are entitled to a life lived in safety and free from violence.”
The statement proceeded to “unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas” and expressed alarm at “the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks.”
Israel’s envoy to the UN told The Times of Israel at the time that the organization was just paying “lip service” to Israelis to ease the pressure. Then-foreign minister Eli Cohen called on the group’s executive director Sima Sami Bahous to resign.
Israeli authorities are gathering evidence ahead of building sexual assault cases against Palestinian terrorists who participated in the massacres.
In addition to witness testimony, police have video evidence, testimony from terrorists, and photographs of victims’ bodies that all point toward sexual assault.
It is part of a larger push by Israel Police to put together cases of murder, torture and other atrocities committed on October 7. Most details of the investigations are currently under a gag order.
Last week, the New York Times published the results of its own two-month investigation, including interviews with more than 150 witnesses, medical personnel, first responders, soldiers, rape counselors and government officials, along with the scanning of video footage, photographs and GPS data from cell phones. It detailed the systematic sexual violence against Israeli women and girls employed by Palestinian terrorists during the onslaught.
On October 7, thousands of Hamas terrorists burst through the border with the Gaza Strip and into Israel in an attack that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. As the terrorists rampaged murderously through southern areas they slaughtered those they found, including 360 people butchered at an outdoor music festival. The attackers raped women and massacre victims were tortured or mutilated. At least 240 people were abducted and taken as hostages to Gaza.