In the aftermath of the harrowing events during the Supernova festival on 7 October, allegations have surfaced regarding Hamas using sexual violence as a weapon of war. This profound and disturbing accusation has prompted a rigorous investigation by Israeli authorities. In this article, we delve into the details, examining the claims, the investigations underway, and the broader implications of such heinous acts.
The Shocking Testimonies
Israeli police have diligently collected over 1,500 testimonies from witnesses and medics, revealing a range of violent acts from gang rape to the sexual mutilation of victims. Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a distinguished women’s rights campaigner and lawyer, asserts having seen footage and pictures from various locations, leaving her with “no doubt” that sexual violence was employed as a deliberate tactic.
Eyewitness Accounts and Expert Testimonies
Prof. Halperin-Kaddari shared firsthand accounts, including that of a survivor who witnessed a woman being raped by several men. Additionally, a paramedic reported treating a woman who suffered life-threatening blood loss after being raped by four men. The concentration of these cases across multiple locations on the same day indicates, according to Prof. Halperin-Kaddari, a premeditated use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Hamas’s Denial and Israel’s Pursuit of Justice
Hamas has vehemently denied these allegations, terming them as “lies” orchestrated by Israel. Despite the denial, Israel continues its pursuit of evidence related to sexual crimes during the attacks. The investigation covers a spectrum of violence, aiming to bring justice to the victims and shed light on the perpetrators.
International Response and UN’s Delay
The delayed acknowledgment by some UN bodies regarding the reported sexual atrocities has stirred international controversy. Prof. Halperin-Kaddari, along with other activists, has been urging key international organizations to recognize these acts as “crimes against humanity.” The UN Women issued a statement eight weeks after the attacks, acknowledging gender-based atrocities, a delay criticized by Prof. Halperin-Kaddari and others.
Additional Perspective: Men as Victims
Yael Sherer from the Lobby to Combat Sexual Violence advocacy group adds another layer to the narrative, stating that men were also victims of sexual violence during the attacks. She highlights the efforts to gather evidence from survivors, eyewitnesses, and first responders, emphasizing the dehumanizing tactics employed by Hamas.
UN Commission of Inquiry
An ongoing UN commission of inquiry, focusing on alleged war crimes on both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict, includes a specific examination of sexual violence during the 7 October attacks. Despite Israel’s reluctance to cooperate, Navi Pillay, the commission’s chair, asserts that evidence can be gathered from survivors and witnesses outside the country if necessary.
The alleged use of sexual violence by Hamas as a weapon of war has triggered a comprehensive investigation by Israeli authorities and international bodies. The delayed acknowledgment by some entities has sparked outrage and calls for accountability. This article aims to provide a thorough overview of the situation, shedding light on the gravity of the allegations, ongoing investigations, and the broader implications for justice and international response.