Israel investigating ‘several cases’ of sexual assault and rape during Hamas attack

Police say the investigation is particularly complex because gun battles between Israeli forces and Hamas had gone on for days

Agencies
Tuesday 14 November 2023 21:02 GMT
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<p>An Israeli soldier walks by a house destroyed during the Hamas attack in southern Israel </p>

An Israeli soldier walks by a house destroyed during the Hamas attack in southern Israel

Police in Israel say they are investigating several cases of sexual assault and rape during the Hamas attack last month.

The probe was complex and would likely take months, Chief Superintendent David Katz of the national unit for serious and organised crime said at police headquarters in Beit Shemesh.

He also showed video testimony from a young woman who attended the Supernova music festival in southern Israel which was attacked by Hamas, leaving 260 people killed.

The woman in the video, her face blurred, described watching another woman get raped before being shot. "I couldn't understand what I saw," she said, adding that she survived the Hamas attack by pretending to be dead.

The investigation is particularly complex because gun battles between Israeli forces and Hamas militants had gone on for days at some of the suspected crime scenes, said Mr Katz. Some of the victims are dead while survivors are struggling with trauma.

The police wouldn't give details about how many cases they had, beyond saying they have several witnesses.

A video testimony was given from a woman who attended the Supernova music festival, where 260 people died

"It's much more complicated because there is the matter of time that passed since the actions until we could reach the bodies," Mr Katz said. "Second of all - the trauma for the victims."

It will take time, Mr Katz said, until survivors will be able to express their ordeal.

"We have other solid information about the crimes including sexual assaults, from eyewitnesses, from forensics which we are still examining, from statements from other participants."

But when it comes to documenting sexual assault, officials said it's been harder to gather evidence and that it's also challenging to get people to come forward. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, first responders were trying to identify the victims in an active combat zone, which lasted for 48 hours, making it hard to properly gather and preserve evidence, they said.

Around 1,200 people were killed, according to Israeli tallies, and some 240 were taken hostage, including children, after Hamas gunmen crossed the border and attacked Israeli towns and villages.

Israel says some 1,500 Hamas militants were killed during the fighting, and many others fled back to Gaza. But Israel says it is holding hundreds of captured militants.

In response to the attack on 7 October, Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas, launching an air, sea and ground offensive that has killed more than 11,000 people, including many children, according to medical officials in Hamas-run Gaza.

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