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“It happened and the world needs to believe it”

After the attacks by Hamas terrorists, more and more details about the atrocities are coming to light. The Israeli police are currently sifting through thousands of pieces of evidence. They show: Sexual violence was systematically used as a weapon of war.

Bettina Meier

It’s not often that a senior investigator in the Israeli police fights back tears. With a trembling voice, Commander Shelly Harush told members of the Israeli parliament that the extent of the terrorist crimes on October 7th was incomprehensible. The Hamas terrorists used sexual violence to spread fear and terror. More and more eyewitnesses are reporting to the police what they saw during or after the attacks.

We are talking about horror, humiliation, mutilation, cruelty and that the terrorists did not differentiate between babies, small children, boys, girls, women, men, old people, soldiers and police officers.

“It was mass destruction of anyone who crossed their path,” says Harush. Harush’s Lahav unit number 433 has collected more than 1,500 pieces of evidence of war crimes to date in the largest police investigation of its kind in Israel’s history. This makes it clear that the terrorists systematically used sexual violence as a weapon of war. The investigators have already come to this conclusion.

Many eyewitnesses were murdered by Hamas

A just-released police video showing the ARD could not independently verify, the interview with an anonymous survivor of the rave festival in Re’im shows: “They forced someone to bend over. Then I understood that he was raping her. I remember the movement. Then he passed them on to someone else.” The woman says she doesn’t know what happened to her. The video ends. She’s not the only one who saw rape on October 7th.

There are other witnesses who report similar things. A man who says he saw two rapes. Meanwhile, a woman was shot in the head. The eyewitnesses say they only survived because they played dead.

Eyewitness reports are rare because most victims of sexual violence were murdered. But there is also another reason, says Orit Sulizeano. She heads the Association of Crisis Centers for Rape Victims in Israel. “We in Israel know that it has taken decades for those who experienced sexual violence in the Holocaust to talk about it. 60 years of silence. The survivors will not speak. It will take a very long time before perhaps one day they can . But it happened, and the world needs to believe it.”

Anger at the silence more international Organizations

There is great anger among the Israeli population because it took international organizations such as the United Nations and the UN Association for the Strengthening of Women’s Rights about two months to even mention the word sexual violence on October 7th. On November 29th, UN Secretary General António Guterres commented on this in New York. “There are numerous reports of sexual violence during the attacks, which must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” said Guterres. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen accused Guterres of not doing enough to publicly condemn Hamas. He is not able to hold the position.

UN-Women, the UN organization that works to strengthen women’s rights, condemned on December 1 “the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on October 7. We are alarmed by the numerous reports of sexualized gender-based violence during the attacks .” UN Women is now calling for all reports of sexual violence to be investigated and the acts prosecuted. The rights of the victims are the focus.

But the initial silence, the failure to mention it, the late acknowledgment of sexual violence has already caused damage, says human rights expert Cochav Elkayim-Levy. She is co-founder of a non-governmental commission collecting evidence on October 7 crimes against women and children. She says for many survivors and their families, not being heard properly is a second trauma. This is increasing because many people have the feeling that their own government has not done enough to free the hostages, says expert Elkayim-Levy. She specialized in international relations and human rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Criticism of the hostage relatives towards Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently being heavily criticized, especially by many relatives of the victims of October 7th. Recently, a woman shouted at him at a meeting between relatives and released hostages and the cabinet. She shouted: “I have been living in the Gaza border area for 40 years. You have promised more than once that Hamas would receive a fatal blow. You have failed!”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu also blames the international community for failure. “Like you, I have heard about the sexual violence and the rapes of indescribable brutality. But I have to say, until a few days ago I had not heard from any human rights organization or women’s movement. Not even from the UN. No outcry. I tell you: “Where are you? Are you quiet because this is about Jewish women?” he said in early December.

Database collects clues

Because she wants to support the police authorities, Elkayim-Levy wants to continue her work and continue collecting evidence and statements. The Commission to Expose Hamas’ October 7 Crimes Against Women and Children is compiling a database of clues – videos shot by terrorists and victims. Including the video of a barefoot woman with her hands tied by her hair being dragged out of a jeep. A terrorist shoots into the air and shouts “Allah is great”. The woman’s pants are covered in blood between her legs. There are many more. Elkayim-Levy is convinced: “With the failure of the international community to recognize the sexual atrocities, the victims and thousands of women in Israel are being left in the lurch.”

In addition, the credibility of international organizations has suffered. The silence has encouraged sexual violence not only in Israel but worldwide.

Freed hostages speak out about Hamas’ sexual violence

Both citizen movements and the Israeli police face a problem: While there are statements from first responders, paramedics, coroners and even the terrorists themselves, much forensic evidence of rape has been lost because appropriate testing was hardly possible in the hours after the attacks . Some of the released hostages themselves have now provided valuable information.

The following quotes from relatives were presented in front of the war cabinet in Israel: “They touched our girls,” is one of the descriptions, “I thought I was going to die, I wanted them to shoot me” is another. And this is also reported: “They shaved Dad’s whole body to humiliate him.”

Human rights activist Elkayim-Levy says small children were also raped and killed. She has evidence of how terrorists practiced saying “pants down” in Hebrew and obtained permission from Muslim clerics to violate women and children.

The terrorists were apparently interested in systematic genocide. About degrading and extinguishing women because they represent the continued existence of the people in Israel.

Bettina Meier, ARD Tel Aviv, tagesschau, December 7th, 2023 6:55 p.m

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