Israel: systematic sexual violence in the October 7 attacks

Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7 gave rise to systematic and premeditated sexual violence, indicates a report by an Israeli organization published Wednesday. Israeli officials have accused Hamas of increasing sexual assaults there, including rape and genital mutilation, which the terrorist movement has always denied. The lack of direct and public accounts from survivors and the absence of forensic expertise has not yet made it possible to draw a clear picture of these abuses and their scale.

“An apocalypse of corpses”

The report from the Association of Rape Support Centers in Israel (ARCCI), which oversees centers combating sexual violence across the country, describes these abuses as an integral part of the October 7 attacks. In this regard, he highlights the “similarities” in all the attacks — against the Nova music festival, kibbutzim, military bases and on the people who were taken hostage. Sexual violence was perpetrated there “systematically and deliberately against Israeli civilians”, notes the report based on testimonies and interviews with witnesses (but not victims), sometimes reported in the media.

Eyewitness accounts of sexual violence multiplied in the media after October 7, especially from survivors of the Nova festival where 3,000 young people celebrated less than 10 km from Gaza. 364 people lost their lives. The ARCCI report mentions in particular “rapes, many of them in meetings, at gunpoint”. He quotes a survivor of the Nova festival attack who describes “an apocalypse of corpses, of naked girls, sometimes on the upper body, sometimes on the bottom”. In Kibbutz Beeri, where 90 residents were killed, rescuers said they found “bodies showing signs of sexual attacks.”

“Break the silence”

Sexual assaults were also recorded in the attacked military bases, adds the report, which notably cites a soldier deployed on one of them, who said he saw at least ten bodies of female soldiers clearly bearing traces of sexual violence. Hostages released since also spoke of sexual assault, the report adds. Like Chen and Agam Goldstein, who after being released after 51 days of detention, said they encountered “at least three female hostages sexually assaulted during their captivity”. The report, which includes sometimes gruesome descriptions, also mentions mutilations of victims, including men.

In the media, witnesses to the Hamas attack reported rape, sexual violence and genital mutilation, sometimes in front of family members, neighbors or relatives of the victim. These accusations are the subject of complex investigations in Israel, made difficult by the absence of a post-mortem examination in the chaos of the days following the attack, and while Jewish religious tradition recommends rapid burial of the deceased. .

The UN special representative in charge of sexual violence in times of conflict, Pramila Patten, visited Israel at the end of January, where she called on women victims of alleged sexual crimes on October 7 to “break the silence” and tell what they had suffered. At the beginning of December, Unicef ​​condemned the “sexual violence” committed against Israeli women on October 7, a condemnation that Israel considered late and insufficient because it did not mention, according to it, their perpetrators, the armed men of Hamas.

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