On Monday, Israel charged that the UN was responding too late to reports that Hamas had attacked Israel on October 7th, engaging in widespread sexual abuse against women.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, claimed that Hamas purposefully employed sexual assault and rape as weapons of war against Israel.

“This was planned out. This was organised. At a U.N. panel that Israel had arranged to present what it claimed was proof of the alleged crimes, Erdan stated, “This was instructed.”

“Unfortunately, the very international organisations that claim to be the champions of all women demonstrated that it is acceptable to be indifferent to Israelis,” Erdan remarked.

Sexual Assault by Hamas Militants

Israeli officials claim to have gathered copious testimonials of rape and sexual offenses from witnesses and first responders who were there either during or following the horrors. These statements include descriptions of torture and mutilation. Additionally, Israeli authorities reference photos purportedly taken by Hamas fighters that depict the conditions of their female victims.

“A survivor from the Nova rave party testified, ‘Everything was an apocalypse of corpses, girls without any clothes on, without tops, without underwear, people cut in half, butchered, some were beheaded,’” Yael Reichert, a chief superintendent with the Israeli national police, said at the U.N. meeting. Reichert is taking part in the Israeli government’s probe into sex crimes carried out in the Oct. 7 attack.

Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief operating officer of Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, also spoke on the panel. She said women’s bodies that tell the stories of sexual violence should be believed over Hamas. “The world must choose which people to believe.” Do we accept the Hamas spokesperson when she claims that since rape is illegal, it couldn’t have occurred on October 7? Or do we believe the women? 

A pair of anonymous Israeli detectives advised against using exact rape victim counts at this time. They informed NBC News that more evidence is being turned in and that the probe would probably take several months to complete.

“Weaponised sexual assault”

On Monday, some 150 protestors—among them representatives of Jewish women’s organisations—also marched in front of the UN building. Speakers during the event charged that the UN is doing little to stop Hamas’ mistreatment of Israeli women.

Speaking at the demonstration, Cochav Elkayam Levy of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Davis Institute for International Relations questioned whether Israeli women were protected by international law in light of the “deafening silence” from international organizations regarding the reports of sexual assault.

Levy stated, “International law loses meaning when the institutions that are globally mandated to protect women stay silent. Humanity’s shared values also lose meaning.”

During the UN panel, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke virtually and stated, “We must respond to weaponized sexual violence wherever it happens.”

At the panel, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, stated that the United Nations must denounce the “barbaric acts” that Hamas committed against women.

“There are also numerous accounts of sexual violence during the attacks that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” stated U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres last week.

However, Israeli officials claim that U.N. Women, a U.N. agency dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, has fallen short of its objectives and that Guterres ought to have made her voice known weeks earlier.

Last Thursday, U.N. Women declared that it was “alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks” and that it “unequivocally” condemned the Hamas attack.

The organisation stated, “This is why we have called for all reports of gender-based violence to be duly investigated and prosecuted, with the victim’s rights at the core.”

The head of a United Nations panel looking into war crimes during the Israel-Hamas conflict has stated that the group will concentrate on sexual assault committed by Hamas during the October 7 strikes and will forward any relevant material to the International Criminal Court.

Israel claims the committee is biassed against Israel, which is why it has not worked with it thus far.

State Department spokesman Matt Miller answered, “I don’t have any specific comment, other than to say we would urge those reports to be fully and credibly investigated,” in response to a question concerning claims that the U.N. has been reluctant to act on rape reports.