UN finds rape during Hamas attack and of hostages

STORY: A team of United Nations experts reported on Monday, there were "reasonable grounds to believe" sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, by Hamas militants took place during their October 7 attack on Israel.

UN special envoy for sexual violence in conflict Pramila Patten led the team.

"In most of these incidents, victims were first subjected to rape and then killed. And at least two incidents relate to the rape of women's corpses."

Patten's group published a 24-page report, after visiting Israel earlier this year to verify information gathered on sexual violence linked to the Hamas attack.

It described finding "credible circumstantial information" that pointed to acts such as genital mutilation and sexualized torture.

Hamas has repeatedly rejected accusations of sexual violence.

But the UN team said evidence showed some of the hostages that militants seized to Gaza had also suffered sexual violence - and voiced concern for those who remain there.

"We found clear and convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment has been committed against captives. And we also have reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may still be ongoing against those still held in captivity."

Here, Patten underlined the need for the war to stop.

"I pause and must add that I am of the strong opinion that this finding does not in any way legitimize further violence, but actually reinforces the need for an urgent ceasefire."

Her team said they also received information about sexual violence against Palestinian men and women in Israeli detention centers, during house raids and at checkpoints after October 7.

They said they raised the allegations with the Israeli authorities, who responded saying they had received no such complaints against the Israeli Defense Forces.

Patten stressed the team's mission in Israel was not investigative in nature, and said a "fully-fledged" probe would be required to establish the overall magnitude, scope and specific attribution for the sexual violence.

Their report made several recommendations, including for the Israeli government to grant access to UN and independent agencies for such investigations, as well as to work with the special envoy's office on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.

They also pressed Hamas to release all those still in captivity, while ensuring their protection, including from sexual violence.