Oct. 7 Assaults, Including Sexual Violence, Could Be Crimes Against Humanity, 2 U.N. Experts Say

Jan 8, 2024 | Hostages, Humanitarianism

Violence that included sexual atrocities committed during the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7 in Israel amounts to war crimes and may also be crimes against humanity, two United Nations human rights experts said on Monday, following months of frustrated accusations from Israel and women’s groups that the U.N. was ignoring the rape and sexual mutilation of women during the Oct. 7 invasion.

Alice Jill Edwards, a special rapporteur on torture, and Morris Tidball-Binz, a special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the growing evidence of sexual violence in the day’s wide range of “brutal attacks” was “particularly harrowing,” noting allegations of sexual assault, gang rape, mutilation and gunshots to the genital areas.

In a statement, they called for “full accountability for the multitude of alleged crimes,” and urged all parties to agree to a cease-fire, abide by international law, and investigate any crimes alleged to have occurred during the fighting.

“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,” they said. “There are no circumstances that justify their perpetration.”

Israeli officials say about 1,200 people were killed and more than 240 taken hostage on Oct. 7. Investigators with Israel’s top national police unit, Lahav 433, have been gathering evidence of cases of sexual violence but have not specified a number. Hamas has denied the accusations of sexual violence.

[The New York Times Report continues]

Reporters interviewed witnesses who described seeing women raped and killed along a highway, reviewed photographs that showed a woman’s corpse with dozens of nails driven into her thighs and groin, and spoke with volunteer medics and Israeli soldiers who came across at least 24 bodies of women and girls in at least six houses, some mutilated, some tied up, and many naked and alone.

Three days after the Times investigation was published, Hamas said in a statement that the group’s leaders “categorically deny such allegations” and called it a part of Israel’s attempt to justify the killing of Palestinian civilians.

Hamas fighters’ “religion, values and culture” forbid such acts, and the short duration of the attack before the attackers withdrew to Gaza made the allegations implausible, the group said in the statement issued Dec 31. It said it would welcome any international inquiries into the allegations.

View this New York Times Report from January 8th