Rape and sexual assault took place during Hamas attack, Israeli association says

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TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel on Wednesday said it has found evidence of “systematic and intentional” rape and sexual abuse during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that ignited the war in Gaza.

The report said the attacks were more widespread than earlier thought, taking place at a series of locations across southern Israel.

“In some cases, rape was conducted in front of an audience, such as partners, family, or friends, to increase the pain and humiliation for all present,” it said.

Orit Sulitzeanu, the executive director of the association, said that in many cases, the bodies of male and female victims, including their genitals, were severely mutilated.

The report, published on Wednesday, did not specify the number of cases it had documented or identify any victims, even anonymously. Sulitzeanu said victim identification was difficult because many were killed after being assaulted, and first responders were so overwhelmed by the scale of death and destruction that they did not document signs of sexual abuse.

The report’s authors said they based their research on confidential and public interviews with officials and first responders, as well as media reports. Sulitzeanu said they also relied on “confidential sources” but declined to say whether they had spoken to victims.

An Associated Press investigation also found that sexual assault was part of an atrocity-filled rampage by Palestinian militant group Hamas and others who killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took around 250 hostages on Oct. 7. Hamas has rejected allegations that its gunmen committed sexual assault.

According to the Israeli report, which was submitted to the United Nations and U.N. investigators carrying out a similar investigation, the sexual and gender-based violence occurred in four main places – a music festival where over 360 people were killed, communities near the Gaza border, Israeli military bases that were overrun by Hamas and places where hostages were held in Gaza.

Over 100 hostages were released during a weeklong cease-fire. Some of the hostages have described being groped or mistreated by their captors.

Sulitzeanu says the purpose of the report was to document how the sexual violence was similar across multiple sites, indicating it was organized and directed by Hamas.

The association represents multiple rape crisis centers across Israel.

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