U.N. Inquiry Finds Evidence of Sexual Assault in Hamas-Led Attack on Israel: Live Updates

A United Nations report released on Monday said that it had found grounds to believe that sexual violence occurred against women during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on Israel and evidence that hostages being held in the Gaza Strip were also assaulted. It called for a full investigation.

The report issued by the U.N. Secretary General’s special envoy on sexual violence in conflict came in response to multiple accounts of sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attack, as well as allegations by Palestinian officials that Palestinian women in detention and in the West Bank had been assaulted. The report asked that Israel grant access to U.N. officials to conduct thorough investigations of the Palestinian accounts.

From late January to early February, the U.N. deployed a team of experts to Israel and the West Bank led by Pramila Patten, the secretary-general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict. Ms. Patten’s office said at the time that its representatives planned to gather information from survivors, witnesses, freed hostages and Palestinians recently released from detention.

In their report, the experts said they had found “reasonable grounds” to believe that sexual violence occurred during the Hamas-led incursion into Israel, including rape and gang rape in at least three locations: the Nova music festival site and its surroundings, Road 232, and Kibbutz Re’im.

“In most of these incidents, victims first subjected to rape were then killed, and at least two incidents relate to the rape of women’s corpses,” the report said.

The report said it found “a pattern of victims, mostly women, found fully or partially naked, bound, and shot across multiple locations,” and although the evidence was circumstantial the pattern could indicate some of form of sexual violence and torture.

It also said it had found “clear and convincing evidence” that hostages being held in Gaza were assaulted.

The report said that it could not verify the reports of sexual violence in one kibbutz, Kfar Azza, although it said circumstantial information indicated that some violence may have occurred. And it said that two allegations of sexual violence in Kibbutz Be’eri, widely reported by the media, were “unfounded.”

First responders told The New York Times they had found bodies of women with signs of sexual assault at those two kibbutzim, but The Times, in its investigation, did not refer to the specific allegations that the U.N. said were unfounded.

“Overall, the mission team is of the view that the true prevalence of sexual violence during the 7 October attacks and their aftermath may take months or years to emerge and may never be fully known,” said the report.

The U.N. report said that its team also heard allegations of sexual violence against Palestinians that implicated Israeli security forces and settlers.

Palestinian officials and civil society representatives, the report said, told the U.N. team of incidents involving “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinians in detention, including various forms of sexual violence in the form of invasive body searches, threats of rape, and prolonged forced nudity, as well as sexual harassment and threats of rape, during house raids and at checkpoints.”

The U.N. team asked the government of Israel to allow access to other U.N. bodies, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the occupied Palestinian Territory, so they can conduct thorough independent investigations into these allegations.

Ms. Patten had said that her trip was not intended to be investigative — other U.N. agencies have that mandate, she said — but to “give voices” to victims and survivors and find ways to offer them support, including justice and accountability.

The U.N. team included technical experts that could interpret forensic evidence, analyze open-source digital information and conduct interviews with any victims and witnesses of sexual violence, the report said.

Israel has said that Hamas attacked women sexually during its incursion into southern Israel and had criticized the U.N. for being too slow to condemn the assaults.,

Hamas has denied the allegations, calling them “wartime propaganda.” It said its members only had time to “to crush the enemy’s military sites.”

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