Smoke rises over Gaza despite Israel-Hamas cease-fire
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Israel is attempting to get the United Nations to recognize and condemn Hamas’ sexual crimes against Israeli women and girls, allegedly perpetrated during the Hamas-led terror attack on Oct. 7.
During a meeting at the U.N. in Geneva on Monday, Israeli officials attempted to raise awareness of the alleged sexual violence against women and urged the international body – which often condemns global injustices and human rights violations – not to keep quiet about the issue.
Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, an associate professor at the Bar-Ilan University, who spoke at the event, told Reuters that the U.N. rights bodies have “downplayed” and “minimized” sexual violence to perpetuate Israel as “the aggressor” in the current conflict.
“Among the war crimes and the crimes against humanity that Hamas committed on October 7th were also sexual crimes, sexual assaults, rapes, that were part, that were a systematic part of their attack, of the massacre and we are expecting a strong condemnation,” she said. “We expected recognition of that. We expected a clear and loud statement that says that there is no justification for using the bodies of women as a weapon of war. None of this came until now.”
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A view shows a destroyed home riddled with bullets, following the deadly Oct. 7 attack by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, southern Israel, Nov. 2, 2023. (Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo)
The professor said she was “deeply concerned, because of the complete lack of acknowledgment, of recognition by United Nations bodies and entities and by the international human rights world, lack of recognition that indeed Hamas committed horrific sexual crimes against women, against women and girls, on October 7th in Israel.”
Halperin-Kaddari theorized that the U.N. was attempting to perpetuate an image that Israel is “the aggressor” in its current war with Hamas, a war that was triggered when Hamas-led forces invaded Israeli border communities on Oct. 7, slaughtering 1,200 people and taking about 240 people hostage.
Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, Israel has launched a ground invasion into Gaza. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
“For many of these organizations, the fact that Hamas committed such horrific acts, such atrocities and that citizens in Israel, civilians, women, girls, children in Israel and men and the elderly, fell victims to such horrific acts, it turns around the conventional framing of viewing Israel as the aggressor, and Palestinians as the ultimate victim,” she said. “So, I would associate these bodies and U.N. entities in Geneva with downplaying and minimization of these types of atrocities that took place on October 7th.”
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Halperin-Kaddari said she wants the international body to remain independent in the discovery of facts and to condemn them appropriately.
“I would like to see independent international bodies that are accepted also for Israel and for civil society in Israel, unbiased, that would investigate specifically the issue of the sexual violence that was committed as part of the October 7th attack,” she said.
A man spray paints a slogan on a barrier along highway 1 to show support for the families of the hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, as demonstrators arrive in Jerusalem, Israel, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)
In Israel, authorities have opened an investigation into sexual violence after evidence emerged pointing to sexual crimes, such as victims being found disrobed and mutilated.
Hamas denies such abuses.
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The U.N. human rights office has condemned the Oct. 7 attacks as “heinous, brutal and shocking.” (Philip Reynaers/Photonews via Getty Images)
The private U.N. event was attended by diplomats, rights groups and U.N. agencies. It was the first Israel-organized event outside the country to address acts of sexual violence by Hamas.
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The U.N. human rights office has condemned the Oct. 7 attacks as “heinous, brutal and shocking,” but has said Israel has not yet granted its monitors access to the country.
Reuters contributed to this report.