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02:20

13 APR 2024

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  • Fran Jakubowicz

The UN’s Response to Sexual Violence by Hamas Explained

How has the UN reacted to the sexual violence Hamas inflicted on Israeli women during their attack on October 7? Examine the timeline, victim reactions, and UN response.



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The Basic Facts:


  • Graphic reports detailed evidence of rape and sexual violence during the October 7 rampage by Hamas


  • Nearly two months after the catastrophic events UN Women has issued a statement condemning these attacks


  • This condemnation comes amidst a surge of global criticism towards the United Nations for its delayed response to these horrific gender-targeted crimes

 

Nearly two months after the catastrophic events of October 7 when Hamas terrorists launched a devastating assault along Israel's southern border resulting in the tragic loss of over 1,200 Jewish lives, U.N. Women has issued a statement condemning these attacks. On December 1, the organization expressed its “unequivocal condemnation of the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on October 7.” The statement highlighted the alarming reports of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during these attacks.


This condemnation comes amidst a surge of global criticism towards the United Nations for its delayed response to these horrific gender-targeted crimes while regularly speaking out about the plight of Palestinian women and girls. The gravity and scale of the tragedy on October 7th have prompted significant debate, leading many to question the adequacy and timing of the U.N.’s response. Critics argue that the condemnation, while necessary, is a case of too little, too late.



Examining the UN's Response to Sexual Violence by Hamas: Was it Enough?


In the aftermath of the attacks, which saw Israeli women and children among the targeted victims, the silence of international human rights and women's rights groups has been palpable. Israeli women's rights advocates have expressed their frustration, citing a "clear double standard" in the global response and seeking recognition for these egregious acts. A Haaretz report noted that after an initial condemnation of the attacks on October 13, there was a conspicuous silence from the UN.


The Civil Commission, an independent NGO, has been conducting the largest rape investigation in Israeli history. The commission is compiling testimonies and documentary evidence from the day of the tragedy, aiming to establish a comprehensive database of crimes committed against women and children during this period. As more evidence is gathered, a chilling picture emerges, revealing a systematic campaign of rape and sexual abuse by Hamas terrorists in the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip.


After viewing video evidence extending from gang rape to sexual mutilation, women's rights advocate and attorney from Israel Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddar has asserted that “Hamas intentionally employed sexual violence as a strategic tactic in warfare”. "I saw a number of first-hand, eyewitness accounts, for example of one survivor who hid in the bushes and saw a woman next to her being raped by several men," Halperin-Kaddari told BBC Radio 4's Today program.


According to a December 4th New York Times article, Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Meta, and Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, accused the body of ignoring the rape and mutilation of women in the Oct. 7 assault on Israel at an assembly at the UN offices in New York. Sandberg laid out the evidence of large-scale sexual violence, with testimony from witnesses. “Silence is complicity,” Sandberg told attendees “On Oct. 7, Hamas brutally murdered 1,200 souls and in some cases, they first raped their victims,” Ms. Sandberg added. “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.”


Recent reports, including those in The Times, have brought to light new testimonies about the sexual violence and mutilation committed by Hamas-led terrorists on October 7. These accounts add credence to allegations previously overlooked or doubted internationally. The ongoing investigation has collected over 1,500 harrowing testimonies from witnesses, medical professionals, and forensic experts.


Concurrently, Israeli police, in collaboration with the military and the Shin Bet internal security service, have been conducting a thorough investigation according to France24. This probe includes collecting witness statements and interrogating captured militants. Authorities have obtained critical evidence, including videos, victim photographs, and confessions, which corroborate the accounts of sexual assault.


Survivors and witnesses, along with first responders and military officials, have provided graphic and detailed descriptions of the sexual violence encountered. The Israel Police's severe crimes unit, Lahav 433, presented these findings at the Knesset, with Shelly Harush, the lead investigator, commenting to The Times, "It is now evident that the inclusion of sexual crimes was a deliberate strategy to inflict terror and humiliation."



Eyewitness Testimony of Hamas' Sexual Violence Against Israelis


Eyewitness accounts form a crucial part of this narrative. The New York Times article detailed the accounts of sexual violence by Hamas and quotes Simcha Greinman, a volunteer who helped collect the remains of victims of the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault on Israel stated: “The body of one woman had nails and different objects in her female organs.” In another house, a person’s genitals were so mutilated that “we couldn’t identify if it was a man or a woman.”


The New York Times article featured a statement from Shari Mendes, a member of an Israeli military reserve unit “tasked with preparing the bodies of fallen female soldiers for burial”. Mendes recounted how her team witnessed several casualties from the October 7th tragedy “who were shot in the crotch, intimate parts, vagina, or were shot in the breast.”


Yoni Saadon, a 39-year-old survivor of the Supernova music festival massacre, shared his traumatic experience with The Sunday Times. He described witnessing a woman being brutally assaulted and then murdered by Hamas terrorists. Greinman, Mendes and Saadon's testimonies are among the many surfacing in the wake of the October 7 attack.


The international community's inadequate response to recent events, especially the actions (or lack thereof) of U.N. Women, has sparked widespread outrage among Jewish groups both in Israel and globally. As more evidence of these atrocities comes to light, the emphasis increasingly shifts towards the urgent need for accountability and justice for the victims of these grievous crimes.



Israel Spearheads UN Session Highlighting Global Inaction on Hamas' Use of Sexual Violence in Warfare


On December 5th, 2023, a special session at the United Nations led by Israel, condemning the global silence on Hamas' use of rape as a weapon of war during the October 7 attacks was held. Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, initiated this session to raise awareness about the sexual crimes committed against women during these attacks and to highlight the perceived hypocrisy and double standards of UN agencies like UN Women. Erdan, along with other speakers such as US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Sheryl Sandberg, emphasized the brutality of these attacks and the silence of international bodies in response.


The session aimed to give voice to the victims, highlight the issue of delayed and inadequate responses from international bodies and ensure that these acts by Hamas were recognized and condemned globally. “Hamas used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. These were not spur-of-the-moment decisions to defile and mutilate girls and parade them while onlookers cheered; rather, this was premeditated,” Erdan said. “Sadly, the silence of international bodies who are supposedly defenders of women has been deafening.”


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Fran Jakubowicz

Fran Jakubowicz is the CEO of SunHouse Marketing, an award-winning, full-service digital marketing and lead generation agency. Fran is also the CMO of Provation Life, a holistic women's health and wellness organization. Fran is also the co-founder and volunteer CMO of Avnei Chein, a mental health crisis support organization, providing real-time advocacy.


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