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Women's genitals 'systemically mutilated' in Hamas attack, says Israeli reservist who dealt with bodies

A reservist who dealt with the aftermath of the Hamas terror attack says there was a "systematic genital mutilation" of women as multiple victims were shot in the crotch, breasts and head.

Warning - contains graphic details of injuries

Shari Mendes was part of an Israeli army reserve unit whose role was to identify and prepare female soldiers for burial.

She told Sky News' The World With Yalda Hakim she was at the Shura base on 8 October, where victims were brought the day after the attack that killed more than 1,200 people.

"The halls were lined to the ceiling with body bags, the smell was unimaginable. I can't tell you the shock and despair that struck all of us," said Ms Mendes.

Her unit performed a religious role, "accompanying" the female victims and preparing them for burial in white linen.

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"It was our job to honour them, they could have been our daughters - they were the same ages as our children... Just for a moment we loved them," she told Sky News.

Ms Mendes said women came in barely dressed, some with bloody underwear, and their injuries were something none of her team was prepared for.

"Women were shot many times in the face... Their mouths were in grimaces, their eyes were open, their fists were clenched," she said.

"They were shot so many times in the head, in many cases it was like there was purposeful obliteration of women's faces.

"Our team has seen women shot in the crotch, in the genitals. Women were shot in the breast... Our team saw this."

She added: "Women had legs cut off. It seemed like there was a systematic genital mutilation of women in the women we saw."

Hamas has denied its fighters raped anyone during the attack, saying it would contradict Islamic teaching, but the UN has begun investigating the claims.

'Booby-trapped bodies'

Ms Mendes said many victims were so badly damaged that she and her colleagues struggled to dress them for burial in the customary white linen.

She told Sky News: "One woman had her arm and her leg broken in so many places it was like handling marbles or sand, and at a certain point we said we would just put a white sheet on top of her."

Witnesses and others who dealt with the attack, particularly the massacre at the Nova music festival, have also described terrible injuries to women and said rape appeared to have been used as a tactic.

Ms Mendes also said the base had to be evacuated on occasion because some victims arrived "booby trapped".

She said other women who may have been subjected to sexual violence during the attack could be staying silent, fearful of not being believed.

"If these women are being questioned about the veracity of their claims, why should they come forward?" she said.

"I think we have to be patient: they're very traumatised... It may take time for these women to speak out, if they ever do."

"It re-victimises the victim to not believe them."