Meeting held after 'long days of fighting against silence'

Israeli rights experts press UN to condemn Hamas crimes against women on Oct. 7

Ahead of Security Council session on impact of war on women and children, Israeli civil commission meets with panel for 1st time to present evidence of terrorists’ sexual violence

Women rally November 12, 2023, urging global women's organizations worldwide to take note of the atrocities committed against women by Hamas terrorists (Courtesy Galit Sabag)
Women rally November 12, 2023, urging global women's organizations worldwide to take note of the atrocities committed against women by Hamas terrorists (Courtesy Galit Sabag)

Israeli women’s rights experts met with the United Nations mission UN Women on Wednesday for the first time in order to advocate for official recognition of Hamas crimes against women and children on October 7, which have been largely ignored on the international stage.

The Civil Commission of Oct. 7 Crimes by Hamas Against Women and Children was set up by Israeli international law and women’s rights experts in order to draw international attention to the crimes of rape and sexual violence committed by Hamas during its October 7 onslaught in southern Israel — of which there is forensic and eyewitness evidence — and to advocate on behalf of the victims.

The civil commission’s meeting with UN Women marked the first time that the United Nations mission dedicated to upholding the rights of women and children has met with Israeli advocates since Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, and took some 240 hostages.

Following the meeting, which she described as “an important, painful and meaningful encounter,” civil commission member and international law and human rights expert Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy stressed that “there is no doubt that this is just the beginning.”

In a post shared on X, Elkayam-Levy said that the commission had “expressed the most profound criticism possible after long days of fighting against the silence about what happened to women and children.”

“We will continue to amplify the voice of the victims, demand the return of the hostages and collect and document any information about what happened,” she added.

Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy speaks to CNN on November 17, 2023 (screen grab used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The meeting with UN Women was held ahead of a special UN Security Council session on the impact of war on women in Israel and Gaza.

In a speech to the Security Council that mainly focused on the suffering of Gazans, UN Women executive director Sima Bahous did condemn Hamas’s crimes inside Israel and promised that they would be investigated, directly acknowledging the evidence presented by the civil commission.

“UN Women has met with and heard from Israeli women who shared with us that they, and civil society organizations, are working to document gender-based atrocities, and they shared their hope for peace, with women — both Israeli and Palestinian — at the table,” she told the council.

“I am reassured that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Patten has activated the UN Action network that she chairs to proactively share UN-sourced and verified information on incidents, patterns, and trends of conflict-related sexual violence to aid all investigations.

“I am confident that there will ultimately be a reckoning for all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in this conflict.”

United Nations Security Council vote on a new US resolution on the Israel-Hamas war, which was vetoed with Russia voting against, October 25, 2023, at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

At the same time, she called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the hostages who have been held in Gaza for close to seven weeks.

“It has been 47 days since the October 7th attack on Israel, where 1,200 people, many of them women and children, were killed,” she said. “Each day that passes marks another 24 hours of unspeakable fear and uncertainty for the hostages, including the women and girls held by Hamas. I continue to call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

Some 50 women and children are expected to be released by Hamas in the coming days, in exchange for a four-day lull in fighting and the release of some 150 Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel.

The main focus of Bahous’s speech, however, was not the crimes committed against women on October 7, but on Israel’s subsequent war in Gaza, through which the country has vowed to eliminate Hamas from the Strip, which it has ruled since 2007.

“The ferocity and destruction that the Gazan people are being forced to endure under our watch has reached an intensity we have never seen before,” she said. “I have been consistent in my briefings to you, in reminding you that women and girls are paying the highest price of conflicts.”

Citing the unverified figures provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, Bahous told the council, “Not only is the number of civilians killed since October 7th twice that of the last 15 years combined, now 67 percent of the more than 14,000 people killed in Gaza are estimated to be women and children.”

The death toll provided by the Gaza health ministry cannot be independently verified and is believed to include members of the terror group, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets falling within the enclave.

Following Bahous’s speech, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan sharply criticized United Nations officials for their silence toward Israeli women.

Presenting photos of 19-year-old Na’ama Levy, who was photographed on October 7 in blood-covered pants with her hands tied behind her back, and Shani Louk, who was paraded around by Hamas terrorists on the back of a pickup truck and killed, Erdan asked the council: “Do you want to discuss women in conflict, women’s rights, women’s dignity? What about the dignity of Na’ama Levy and Shani Louk? What about their rights as women?

“Sadly… the horrors endured by these young women are not worthy of mention. To the UN and its agencies, Israeli women are not women, and Israeli children are not children,” Erdan said.

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