Israel recalls UN ambassador in row over Hamas rape allegations

Aprilia Rine

Israel recalls UN ambassador in row over Hamas rape allegations

The country’s foreign minister has accused the global body of trying to “keep quiet” a report on acts of sexual violence

Israel has recalled its ambassador to the UN after Secretary General Antonio Guterres declined to convene a Security Council hearing on allegations of rapes committed during the Hamas attacks of October 7, despite a report finding there were “reasonable grounds” to believe West Jerusalem’s claims.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced on Monday that he was bringing back Ambassador Gilad Erdan for “immediate consultations regarding the attempt to keep quiet the serious UN report on the mass rapes committed by Hamas and its helpers on October 7.” He rebuked Guterres for failing to take up the report in the Security Council and declare Hamas a terrorist organization.

Katz issued his statement after the UN’s envoy focusing on sexual violence suggested in a report that allegations of sexual assaults of Israelis by Hamas militants were plausible. There are “reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing,” said the envoy, Pramila Patten, who took a nine-person team to Israel and the West Bank from January 28 to February 14.

Patten’s report, released on Monday, said the UN team found “clear and convincing information” that some of the women and children whom Hamas took back to the Gaza Strip as hostages following the October 7 attacks have been subjected to rape and “sexualized torture.” The surprise Hamas raids against southern Israeli villages left more than 1,100 people dead and triggered a war in which more than 30,000 Gazans have reportedly been killed.

Hamas has denied allegations of sexual violence. Patten said her team was unable to meet with any of the alleged rape victims, but the UN group gathered information from Israeli institutions, witnesses of the attacks and released hostages. Based on that information, she said, it’s “reasonable” to believe that gang rapes and other acts of sexual violence occurred in at least three separate locations on October 7.

For instance, the bodies of naked or partially naked bodies from the waist down were recovered with hands tied and multiple gunshot wounds. In some cases, the bodies – mostly women – were tied to trees or poles. The UN team also verified the rape of a woman outside a bomb shelter. Witnesses reported rapes of female corpses, as well as rapes of two women by Hamas militants on a road leading from a music festival that was attacked. Several bodies were found on the road with “genital injuries, along with injuries to other body parts,” the report said.

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However, Patten added that at least two widely reported allegations of sexual violence were determined to be unfounded. UN spokeswoman Stephane Dujarric argued that Guterres supported Patten’s work and denied that he had done anything to “keep quiet” the envoy’s report.

Erdan, the recalled ambassador, said it took the UN five months to “finally recognize” the sexual atrocities committed by Hamas. He added that with Monday’s report confirming the ongoing sexual abuse of Israeli hostages, “the shameful silence by the UN that is not holding even one discussion on the issue screams to the heavens.”

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