Israel investigating 'several cases' of sex attacks by Hamas

Israel is investigating ‘several cases’ of sex attacks by Hamas terrorists during October 7 massacre including woman who was gang-raped then shot at festival

  • Witnesses told Israeli police they saw instances of sexual violence on October 7

Israeli police said on Tuesday they were investigating ‘several cases’ of alleged sexual violence against women by Hamas during the October 7 attacks, citing ‘multiple witnesses’ to incidents of rape.

Police have been gathering evidence about allegations of sexual violence from witnesses, surveillance footage and the interrogations of Palestinians arrested since Hamas’ incursion into Israel last month.

At a news conference, police shared testimony from a survivor of the attack at the Supernova music festival, who described seeing a woman gang-raped then shot. 

The witness, identified as ‘S’, said she witnessed a group of women being ‘taken to a specific place by armed men, wearing military uniforms’. 

‘I understood they raped them,’ she said, also describing how she saw another woman raped and mutilated by several armed men, with one shooting her in the head during the act.

David Katz, head of the Lahav 443 criminal investigation unit, said: ‘We have no living victims who said “we have been raped”‘, but, he said, ‘we have multiple witnesses for several cases’.

While he did not give a precise figure for the number of cases under investigation, Katz said the inquiry could take ‘six to eight months’.

Illustrative image shows attendees fleeing the scene of the Supernova music festival near Re’im in Israel on October 7. Israeli police said Tuesday they are investigating alleged cases of sexual violence that took place said to have taken place during Hamas’ incursion

Festival attendees flee the outdoor party after Hamas launched airstrikes and swept through the site with assault rifles. The identities of alleged victims in the investigation into sexual violence has not been shared by Israeli police

The Lahav 433 investigations are part of the force’s effort to prosecute those captured during the attack on October 7, which left more than 1,200 Israelis dead. 

Investigators say interviews with suspects have revealed that they planned to reach the centre of Israel and take control of a settlement for an extended period of time, taking residents hostage and planting mines in the area, local newspaper Haaretz reports.

However, this alleged plan was thwarted by Israeli security forces, reserve units and civilian groups who fought back against the Hamas invaders, the report says.

At the conference on Tuesday, David Katz also outlined details of other evidence collected by police, including from the ZAKA organisation, which recovers human remains in accordance with Jewish religious law to afford them a proper burial.

‘We have several statements from people from ZAKA who saw the bodies of women without pants or underwear,’ he said.

‘We took more than 1,000 statements and some of the victims cannot speak due to being in psychological and medical treatment,’ he said.

As previously reported, Lahav 433 have taken testimony from a woman who said she witnessed the gang-rape and murder of another young woman. 

‘As I am hiding, I see in the corner of my eye that [a terrorist] is raping her,’ the witness told investigators. 

‘They bent her over and I realised they were raping her and simply passing her on to the next [gunman].’

The witness says the victim was ‘alive’ and ‘on her feet and bleeding from her back. But then the situation was that he was pulling her hair. She had long, brown hair.’

The woman told officers one of the Hamas gunmen ‘shot her in the head while he was raping her… didn’t even lift his pants’.

Her testimony has been reported in a number of Israeli news outlets. It was one of thousands of pieces of evidence gathered by the police.

Another male witness said he didn’t see the rape, but confirmed the other witness told him at the time what she had seen. 

Until now, reports of sexual violence carried out by Hamas terrorists were based on testimonies from first responders, who arrived in settlements on October 7.

The Times of Israel published a detailed investigation on Thursday, looking at the challenges in forensically identifying sexual violence since the attack.

The report observed that ‘physical evidence of sexual assault was not collected from corpses by Israel’s overtaxed morgue facilities amid their ongoing scramble to identify the people killed, many of whose bodies were mutilated and burned’ and noted that the decision has ‘fueled international skepticism over Hamas’s sexual abuse of victims… on October 7.’

The outlet cites interrogations purporting to show confessions from members of Hamas, ‘attesting to their orders to rape Jewish women’. 

However, the report states, ‘a month after the massacre, the window for collecting physical evidence of rape that can stand up in court is closed’, referencing an anonymous forensic official.

The Times of Israel suggests the window was missed as resources were directed towards identifying bodies. 

Nonetheless, misinformation continues to circulate online as fact-checkers work to verify claims in real time. 

Last week, Reuters falsified claims a widely-shared video showed Hamas gunmen saying they would rape a woman in Arabic.

The onscreen subtitles in the nine-second video, which are mistranslated from Arabic to English and Hebrew, read: ‘No, no, take her back, this is not a prisoner, this one is for rape. Go back to your place!’

A user shared the clip with English and Hebrew subtitles. It has been seen 8.1mn times at the time of writing.

At no time in the video is rape mentioned, according to a Reuters translation of the Arabic audio on the video, nor do any of the men say the woman is going to be raped.

In the video, one man says: ‘No, no, she is a female captive, leave her, leave her, she is a female captive. Take her back, take her back, she is a female captive. Go back to your place!’

Reuters was unable to track down the original source of the video to identify the people shown in it and cannot confirm whether the men are Hamas militants. 

Personal belongings left behind by Israelis in the aftermath of an attack that killed more than 260 people during a music festival on October 7, near Re’im, Israel

A bloodied woman is apparently taken hostage as other men cheer, in this still from a video

During the October 7 attacks, Hamas militants stormed across the border into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, Israeli officials say.

Israel has hit back with a massive bombardment of Gaza and a ground operation, which the health ministry in Gaza says has so far killed more than 11,200 people, two-thirds of them women and children.

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