US, UK and France request UN Security Council convene on October 7 rape report

Foreign minister hails ‘big victory for justice and morality,’ expects others to join submission following Israeli request; accuses secretary-general of ignoring accusations

The UN Security Council holds a meeting on the Russia-Ukraine war, at UN Headquarters in New York City on February 23, 2024. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)
The UN Security Council holds a meeting on the Russia-Ukraine war, at UN Headquarters in New York City on February 23, 2024. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

The United States, the United Kingdom and France requested overnight to convene an emergency session of the UN Security Council to discuss a UN report accusing Hamas of severe sexual violence on and following October 7, the Foreign Ministry said Friday, answering a request by Israel on the matter.

The permanent members asked to hold the discussion alongside a public briefing by the report’s author, Pramila Patten, the UN special representative for sexual violence in conflicts, the Foreign Ministry statement read.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz thanked the countries for submitting the request and said he “expects additional countries will join the request.”

“This is a big victory for justice and morality and an important step to returning the hostages home,” he stated.

“With every passing moment, the hostages continue to be abused in captivity and the UN secretary-general keeps closing his eyes and covering his ears as if nothing happened. On International Women’s Day, of all days, his continued silence is a disgrace and casts a stain on his head that will not be erased,” Katz added.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan asked the US, UK, France, Malta, Ecuador, Japan, Slovenia and Switzerland to make the request, Katz’s office told The Times of Israel Tuesday.

From left, Gilad Erdan, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, and Dani Dayan, chairman of Yad Vashem, at the Yad Vashem Book of Names of Holocaust Victims Exhibit, January 26, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. (AP/John Minchillo)

Erdan also requested UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convene the body, though it is the member states that typically do so. Guterres invoked the rarely used Article 99 to convene the Security Council in December to raise the alarm about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The report will also be debated during the UN’s annual April meeting on sexual violence in conflict.

Patten’s report, based on more than two weeks of meetings on the ground, stated that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that terrorists committed rape and sexual abuse during their murderous rampage on October 7 and that there is an even higher standard of evidence to indicate that at least some of the 253 hostages kidnapped by Hamas that day were subject to rape in captivity.

Presenting the report at UN Headquarters in New York, Patten said that there was “clear and convincing information that sexual violence including rape, sexualized torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” was committed against hostages being held in captivity in the Strip by Hamas.

“The mission was a difficult one in terms of what we heard and the details,” said Patten at the press conference. “We saw a catalog of the most extreme and inhumane forms of torture and other horrors,” she said, noting that her mission “was neither intended nor mandated to be investigative in nature.”

The team said that a “fully-fledged investigation” would be required to establish the overall magnitude, scope, and specific attribution for the sexual violence.

Patten said that based on her evidence-gathering, there are reasonable grounds to believe that “rape and gang rape” occurred during the October 7 attacks in at least three locations: the Supernova music festival site, Kibbutz Re’im, and along the nearby Route 232.

In most such instances, she said, evidence shows that victims were “first subjected to rape and then killed,” noting as well “two incidents” pointing to the rape of women’s corpses.

The music festival grounds, Patten said, where hundreds were killed, was the site of “brutal mass murders,” noting that many bodies were found extensively burned or disfigured and that there was also a “recurring pattern of victims found fully or partially undressed, bound and shot.”

Patten noted that “some allegations” of sexual violence from Kibbutz Be’eri were determined to be unfounded, including a story about a pregnant woman’s fetus being cut out of her body, while other allegations could not be verified.

File: UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten briefs the press on the findings of a UN report on sexual violence during Hamas’ October 7 attacks, at the UN Headquarters, New York City, March 4, 2024. (Screenshot/UNTV/AFP)

She added that, in addition, interviews in the West Bank of both male and female Palestinian detainees pointed to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment by Israeli security forces, including “sexual violence in the forms of body searches [and] threats of rape.”

Since the October 7 massacre, during which close to 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed, Israel has railed at international women’s groups that ignored evidence of Hamas’s weaponization of sexual violence during the onslaught.

After the report was released, Katz instructed Israel’s diplomats to launch a public relations offensive aimed at pressuring the UN to declare Hamas a terrorist organization and to immediately convene the Security Council to debate the findings.

In a letter, Katz told the envoys to push messaging around the report in interviews, on social media, and in meetings with decision-makers. He demanded that each mission report their activities to advance these messages by March 14.

Katz said the diplomats should push the idea that “the weak response by the UN indicates to Hamas that these acts are acceptable and will not bring sanctions on the terror organization.”

Erdan also lambasted the international body for taking so long to recognize what happened in Gaza-adjacent communities on October 7.

The foreign minister recalled Erdan back to Israel for discussions in the lead-up to the report’s publishing, alleging that the UN was attempting to silence the findings. The two diplomats have repeatedly clashed with the international body, accusing it of minimizing the atrocities of October 7 and avoiding serious action over Israeli claims of collaboration between the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, and Hamas.

Amy Spiro and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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