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UN envoy says 'reasonable grounds' to believe Hamas committed sexual violence on Oct. 7

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AP
EDITH M. LEDERER
March 04, 2024

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. envoy focusing on sexual violence in conflict said in a new report Monday that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas committed rape, “sexualized torture,” and other cruel and inhumane treatment of women during its surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

There are also “reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing,” said Pramila Patten, who visited Israel and the West Bank from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14 with a nine-member team.

In the report, she said the team “found clear and convincing information” that some hostages have been subjected to the same forms of conflict-related sexual violence including rape and “sexualized torture.”

Patten’s report said the team’s visit “was neither intended nor mandated to be investigative in nature.”

She said the team was not able to meet with any victims of sexual violence “despite concerted efforts to encourage them to come forward.” However, team members held 33 meetings with Israeli institutions and conducted interview with 34 people including survivors and witnesses of the Oct. 7 attacks, released hostages, health providers and others.

Based on the information it gathered, Patten said, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred during the 7 October attacks in multiple locations across Gaza periphery, including rape and gang rape, in at least three locations.”

Across various locations, she said, the team found “that several fully naked or partially naked bodies from the waist down were recovered – mostly women – with hands tied and shot multiple times, often in the head.”

While this is circumstantial, she said the pattern of undressing and restraining victims “may be indicative of some forms of sexual violence.”

At the Nova music festival and its surroundings, Patten said, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that multiple incidents of sexual violence took place with victims being subjected to rape and/or gang rape and then killed or killed while being raped.”

She said credible sources described finding murdered victims, mostly women, naked from the waist down, many shot in the head.

On Road 232 — the road to leave the festival — “credible information based on witness accounts describe an incident of the rape of two women by armed elements,” Patten said. Other reported rapes couldn’t be verified during their time in Israel.

But she said “the mission team also found a pattern of bound naked or partially naked bodies from the waist down, in some cases tied to structures including trees and poles, along Road 232.”

Patten said that in kibbutz Reim, the mission team verified the rape of a woman outside a bomb shelter and heard of other allegations of rape that could not yet be verified.

At Kibbutz Be’eri, Patten said, her team “was able to determine that at least two allegations of sexual violence widely repeated in the media, were unfounded due to either new superseding information or inconsistency in the facts gathered.”

These included a highly publicized allegation that a pregnant woman’s womb was reportedly ripped open before being killed with her fetus stabbed inside her, Patten said.

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