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UN team says rape, gang rape likely occurred during Hamas attack on Israel

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A team of United Nations experts reported on Monday that there were "reasonable grounds to believe" sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred at several locations during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants.

A view of a junction shows the aftermath of a mass-infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, in the Sderot area, southern Israel October 7, 2023. euters/Ammar Awad

A team of United Nations experts reported on Monday that there were "reasonable grounds to believe" sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred at several locations during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants.

The team - led by U.N. special envoy for sexual violence in conflict Pramila Patten - visited Israel between Jan. 29 and Feb. 14 on a mission intended to gather, analyze and verify information on sexual violence linked to the Oct. 7 attacks.

"Credible circumstantial information, which may be indicative of some forms of sexual violence, including genital mutilation, sexualized torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, was also gathered," read the 24-page U.N. report.

Palestinian militant group Hamas has repeatedly rejected accusations of sexual violence.

Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel's retaliation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip has since killed around 30,000 Palestinians, health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave say.

"The mission team found clear and convincing information that some hostages taken to Gaza have been subjected to various forms of conflict-related sexual violence and has reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing," the U.N. report said.

The team said a "fully-fledged investigation" would be required to establish the overall magnitude, scope and specific attribution for the sexual violence.

The U.N. team said it also received information from institutional and civil society sources and direct interviews, about "sexual violence against Palestinian men and women in detention settings, during house raids and at checkpoints" after Oct. 7. The detention centers were in Israel.

The U.N. team said it raised the allegations with the Israeli Ministry of Justice and Military Advocate General, which said no complaints of sexual violence against members of the Israeli Defense Forces had been received.

Israel has been critical of the U.N. response to the Oct. 7 attacks. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said late last year that sexual violence committed on Oct. 7 "must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted," stressing: "Gender-based violence must be condemned. Anytime. Anywhere."

"The U.N. claims to care about women, yet as we speak right now Israeli women are being raped and abused by Hamas terrorists. Where is the U.N.'s voice? Where is your voice?" Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan told the 193-member U.N. General Assembly earlier on Monday.

"Hamas must face unrelenting pressure to end their sexual violence and release all of the hostages immediately," he said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols

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