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UN has 'convincing evidence' Hamas subjected hostages to rape and torture

Hostages were taken by Hamas fighters on 7 October. (ANONYMOUS/AFP via Getty Images)
Hostages were taken by Hamas fighters on 7 October. (ANONYMOUS/AFP via Getty Images)

A specialist UN team has revealed it has “convincing information” that some hostages taken by Hamas in its attack on Israel have been raped and tortured.

The UN has been investigating claims that sexual violence has been used against captives who were grabbed and imprisoned in Gaza.

It found "reasonable grounds to believe" sexual violence, including gang rape, took place when Hamas attacked on October 7. It also said had evidence that the abuse was ongoing.

Israel's foreign ministry said the findings were "definitive recognition that Hamas committed sexual crimes".

Hamas dismissed the UN report as "baseless and only aimed at demonising the Palestinian resistance" and has denied any violence or abuse against female captives.

The UN's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten said her team had "found clear and convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualised torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" had been committed against hostages.

There were "reasonable grounds" to believe such violence could be "ongoing against those still held in captivity", she added.

Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7 killing about 1,200 people and taking 253 others hostage in an assault which included fighters on motorcycles and paragliders.

The UN report said "the mission team found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred in multiple locations during the 7 October attacks".

The hostages were initially abused at the Nova music festival site and its surroundings, Road 232, and Kibbutz Re'im, it added.

The UN team visited Israel between January 29 and February 14.

The mission Ms Patten and nine experts.

More than 5,000 photographic images were trawled through along with 50 hours of video footage.

The report said that "despite concerted efforts to encourage" victims to come forward, the team was unable to interview any of them.

The UN team found some allegations of rape and sexual violence were "unfounded".

Those included the claim that a pregnant woman’s womb was torn open and her foetus stabbed. Other reports could not be verified due to limited evidence, the UN said.

The UN report also said there had been allegations of sexual violence against Palestinians in Israeli custody, including "unwanted touching of intimate areas" and "prolonged forced nudity" in detention and at checkpoints.

Israel responded to the 7 October attack by launching a military campaign in Gaza, during which 30,500 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.