Breaking the Taboo of Sexual Violence in the Hamas Conflict

Breaking the Taboo of Sexual Violence in the Hamas Conflict

In early October, when Hamas launched an attack, the Israeli military quickly established a makeshift morgue at the Shura defense base in central Israel. The aim was to identify and prepare the deceased for burial among the 1,200 casualties that day, of which at least 300 were women, according to authorities.

Shari Mendes, a reservist who assisted at the base, shared her experiences, noting the challenging conditions faced by the team. The victims, often arriving in just underwear, presented various states, from decomposition to mutilation. The Israeli police are investigating potential sexual crimes among the several hundred individuals arrested after the attack.

However, the urgency of Jewish burial practices led to the burial of women’s clothes with them before police examinations could occur. This complicates the investigation into alleged sexual crimes during this unprecedented attack, considered the bloodiest in Israel’s history.

At various sites, battles raged for days, hindering timely access for evidence collection. The justice ministry in Israel has asserted that victims suffered torture, physical abuse, rape, burning alive, and dismemberment. Hamas denies allegations of sexual assault or mutilation by its armed wing during or after the October 7 attack.

Despite challenges, accounts from first responders indicate instances of alleged sexual violence, with women found in distressing conditions. The UN commission of inquiry, investigating war crimes in the Israel-Hamas conflict, will specifically look into the sexual violence allegations by Hamas.

In Israeli criminal law, sexual violence encompasses various offenses, and convictions can rely on testimonies and circumstantial evidence. Yet, obstacles in this case include many victims being deceased or traumatized. Surviving victims and witnesses have sought help, but authorities face difficulties gathering evidence, especially with decomposed bodies.

The investigation involves over 60,000 visual documents, including videos from attackers’ cameras, CCTV footage, and drone images. Some online videos purportedly depict sexual violence, but their authenticity remains unverified. A gag order is in place, hindering full transparency.

If prosecutions in Israel prove challenging, the International Criminal Court (ICC) may step in. The ICC has jurisdiction over atrocity crimes committed on Israeli territory by Palestinians. Israeli lawyers are preparing evidence for the ICC, though Israel does not recognize its jurisdiction.

Despite potential challenges, the Israeli government might turn to the ICC, emphasizing its commitment to legal proceedings against those responsible for the October 7 attacks, regardless of their location.

This situation poses a complex dilemma, balancing legal processes with political considerations and international dynamics.

About Author

Maria Silva

Maria Silva, a graduate of UCLA in Journalism, is the voice for the voiceless. Her dedication to investigative reporting and her ability to uncover hidden truths make her an asset to the team. Maria's articles often shed light on critical social issues, providing a platform for change. Her well-crafted narratives keep you engaged and informed on the trending news of the day.

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