Hamas ‘deliberately shot women in their genitals’ during massacre

The United Nations has faced criticism for its lack of condemnation of claims of sexual violence
The United Nations has faced criticism for its lack of condemnation of claims of sexual violence - DEDI HAYUN/REUTERS

Hamas deliberately shot women in their genitals, the United Nations has heard, amid rising anger at the silence around sexual violence during the Oct 7 massacre.

Shari Mendes, a member of the Israeli military unit who prepared the bodies of female soldiers for burial, said her team had seen comrades “who were shot in the crotch, intimate parts, vagina, or were shot in the breast”.

Another speaker, Simcha Greinman, said one woman’s body had “nails and different objects in her female organs”.

Around 800 protesters who accuse the UN of double standards when it comes to sexual violence rallied outside the body’s New York headquarters as the testimony was heard.

Some chanted: “Me too, unless you’re a Jew.” A reference to the feminist movement against sexual harassment and abuse of women.

Sheryl Sandberg, the former Meta chief operating officer, who helped to organise the event, accused the UN of ignoring the rape and mutilation of women on Oct 7. “Silence is complicity,” she said.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said on Tuesday that he had heard stories of sexual abuse at a meeting with hostages returned by Hamas during a recent pause in the fighting in Gaza.

“I heard, and you also heard, about sexual abuse and incidents of brutal rape like nothing else,” he told a news conference.

Joe Biden also condemned sexual violence by “Hamas terrorists”.

“The world can’t just look away at what’s going on. It’s on all of us... to forcibly condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation,” Mr Biden said at a campaign event in Boston.

It came after the US said the hostage release deal had broken down because Hamas was reluctant to allow captured women to speak about the sexual violence they had endured.

Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the US Department of State, said: “It seems one of the reasons they don’t want to turn women over they’ve been holding hostage and the reason this pause fell apart is they don’t want those women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody.”

A total of 110 of the approximately 240 hostages abducted by Hamas or their affiliates were released as part of the temporary ceasefire, 78 of them Israeli women and children.

Hostages ‘drugged before release’

On Tuesday, an Israeli health official told the Knesset that hostages were drugged before being handed over to the Red Cross for release.

Prof Ronid Endevelt, the head of the health ministry’s nutrition department, said the terrorists had forced their captives to swallow tranquillisers such as Clonex as well as vitamins “so they would look happy”.

The UN has faced mounting criticism for a lack of a robust condemnation of sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas.

António Guterres, the UN’s secretary-general, said sex crimes must be “vigorously investigated and prosecuted” in a statement not released until Nov 29.

UN Women has been singled out in particular for its silence on the issue while it has regularly spoken out about the plight of Palestinian women and girls.

Meni Binyamin, the head of Israeli police’s international crime investigations unit, has said in an interview that it had documented “violent rape incidents, the most extreme sexual abuses we have seen,” on Oct 7. “I am talking about dozens”.

He said some men were among the victims of sexual violence.

‘Shooting was targeted at sexual organs’

Among the evidence found by the investigators were bodies of women that were partially or fully naked, women with broken pelvic bones, plus videos taken by Hamas fighters themselves.

There are also a small number of first-hand witnesses, including a woman who told police that she had watched Hamas terrorists taking turns to rape a young women they had captured at the Nova music festival.

In a video released by police last month, she said they had mutilated the woman before shooting her in the head.

Speaking at the UN on Monday, Yael Richert, an Israeli police superintendent, presented a video of witnesses. One testimony by a paramedic said: “Shooting was targeted at sexual organs. We saw that a lot.”

Ms Sandberg said: “On Oct 7, Hamas brutally murdered 1,200 souls and in some cases, they first raped their victims.

‘‘We know this from eyewitnesses, we know this from combat paramedics, we would know this from some victims if more had been allowed to live.”

Hamas has denied that its fighters have committed sexual crimes. The terrorist group said such activity would violate Islamic principles.

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