Hamas’ sexual violence against women during Oct 7 attacks revealed: Report – Times of India

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TEL AVIV:: In the aftermath of the October 7 attacks carried out by Hamas in southern Israel, a horrifying pattern of sexual violence against women has come to light.
The New York Times conducted a two-month investigation, uncovering distressing details that indicate sexual assault and mutilation at multiple locations targeted by the terrorists.
One of the victims, Gal Abdush, a mother of two from central Israel, disappeared from a rave that turned into a massacre site.A viral video shot by a woman searching for her missing friend showed Gal Abdush lying on the road, partially clothed, with her face burned beyond recognition.
Israeli police officials, based on video evidence, believe that Gal Abdush was raped, and her tragic story has become a symbol of the horrors inflicted upon Israeli women during the attacks.
The investigation identified at least seven locations where Israeli women and girls appear to have been sexually assaulted or mutilated. Witnesses, medical personnel, soldiers, and rape counsellors were among the 150 people interviewed by The New York Times, providing a comprehensive picture of the widespread gender-based violence on October 7.
The terror unfolded at the rave, military bases along the Gaza border, and Kibbutzim. Witnesses described graphic scenes of women being raped and killed at different locations along Route 232, the highway where Gal Abdush’s body was found.
Volunteer medics and soldiers reported discovering more than 30 bodies of women and girls in a state similar to Gal Abdush’s–legs spread, clothes torn off, and signs of abuse in their genital areas, according to the NYT.
The report further states that The Times viewed disturbing photographs and videos, including one woman’s corpse with nails driven into her thighs and groin. Another video, provided by the Israeli military, showed two dead soldiers at a base near Gaza who appeared to have been shot directly in their genital areas.
Hamas has denied accusations of sexual violence, leading to outrage among Israeli activists. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Women faced criticism for not acknowledging the accusations promptly, the NYT report stated.
The Israeli police, acknowledging challenges during the chaotic events of October 7, revealed they were not initially focused on collecting forensic evidence from women’s bodies. Chaos, grief, and religious duties led to hasty burials, with many bodies remaining unexamined. The lack of autopsies and crime scene examinations has left families searching for answers.
The investigation faced hurdles in collecting forensic evidence, typical in cases of widespread sexual violence during conflicts.
Adil Haque, a Rutgers law professor and war crimes expert, explained the challenges, noting that armed conflicts prioritise safety over building criminal cases.
“Armed conflict is so chaotic,” he said, adding that very often sex crime cases will be prosecuted years later on the basis of testimony from victims and witnesses.
“The eyewitness might not even know the name of the victim,” he added. “But if they can testify as, ‘I saw a woman being raped by this armed group,’ that can be enough,” according to NYT.
One key witness, named Sapir, provided graphic testimony, describing the brutalisation of women by heavily armed gunmen. She recalled witnessing the rape and killing of at least five women, emphasising the chaos and brutality of the attackers. Sapir’s account was supported by photographs of her hiding place and her wounds.
About 15 meters from her hiding place, she said, she saw motorcycles, cars and trucks pulling up. She said that she saw “about 100 men,” most of them dressed in military fatigues and combat boots, a few in dark sweatsuits, getting in and out of the vehicles. She said the men congregated along the road and passed between them assault rifles, grenades, small missiles — and badly wounded women, the NYT report said.
“It was like an assembly point,” she said.
The first victim she said she saw was a young woman with copper-colour hair, blood running down her back, pants pushed down to her knees. One man pulled her by the hair and made her bend over. Another penetrated her, Sapir said, and every time she flinched, he plunged a knife into her back.
She said she then watched another woman “shredded into pieces.” While one terrorist raped her, she said, another pulled out a box cutter and sliced off her breast.
“One continues to rape her, and the other throws her breast to someone else, and they play with it, throw it, and it falls on the road,” the NYT quoted Sapir as saying.
She said the men sliced her face and then the woman fell out of view. Around the same time, she said, she saw three other women raped and terrorists carrying the severed heads of three more women.
Sapir provided photographs of her hiding place and her wounds, and police officials have stood by her testimony and released a video of her, with her face blurred, recounting some of what she saw.
Other witnesses, like Raz Cohen, according to the NYT report, a young Israeli who had also attended the rave and had worked recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo training Congolese soldiers — said that he was hiding in a dried-up streambed. It provided some cover from the assailants combing the area and shooting anyone they found, he said in an hour-and-a-half interview in a Tel Aviv restaurant.
Maybe 40 yards in front of him, he recalled, a white van pulled up and its doors flew open.
He said he then saw five men, wearing civilian clothes, all carrying knives and one carrying a hammer, dragging a woman across the ground. She was young, naked and screaming.
“They all gather around her,” Cohen said. “She’s standing up. They start raping her. I saw the men standing in a half circle around her. One penetrates her. She screams. I still remember her voice, screams without words.”
“Then one of them raises a knife,” he said, “and they just slaughtered her.”
Another, account cited by the NYT report was of Shoam Gueta, who also recounted horrifying scenes of women being raped and slaughtered. Volunteer emergency medical technicians described discovering bodies with signs of sexual assault at the rave site and in kibbutzim, regretting their inability to document more due to religious rules and the need for respect for the dead.
Despite the challenges, the Israeli police continue to uncover evidence of sexual violence.
The Deputy Superintendent, Moshe Fintzy, highlighted the recovery of videos showing women being brutalised, emphasising the dual forces of anti-Semitism and misogyny at play.
The lack of autopsies and the quick burial of bodies have left potential evidence buried. Some survivors of sexual assault have been identified, but their trauma has made it difficult for them to speak publicly. The Association of Rape Crisis Centres in Israel stressed the importance of understanding the broader narrative through the victims’ stories, The New York Times reported.


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