There is evidence that Hamas raped or cut up dozens of Israeli women.

The Israeli military set up an improvised morgue of refrigerated shipping containers at the Shura defense camp in central Israel on Oct. 7, the day Hamas attacked, to identify and prepare the deceased for burial. Authorities reported at least 300 of the 1,200 people slain that day were women.

“Often, women came in in just their underwear,” said Shari Mendes, a reserve who spent two weeks at the base assisting doctors with fingerprinting and washing female troops’ bodies.

“Sometimes we had people who – we just had a torso, okay – or they were very decomposed or they were mutilated,” Mendes went on to say. “I saw very bloody genitals on women.”

Some of the few hundred persons arrested following the Oct. 7 incident are being investigated by Israeli police for alleged sexual crimes. Their goal is to bring every defendant in custody to trial.


However, the women’s garments were buried with them at the morgue where Mendes worked before police detectives could examine them. According to Jewish burial rule, the dead must be treated with dignity and buried as soon as feasible. Because everything that is a part of the body is buried together, some ladies were buried wearing bloodstained garments.
“We wiped everything clean of blood,” Mendes said, according to Reuters.

It’s just one of the difficulties confronting the investigation into the alleged sexual crimes perpetrated during the worst attack in Israel’s 75-year history.


Battles raged for days at some areas, making entry impossible. Some evidence was acquired, but police believe they are facing a struggle because opportunities to collect perishable evidence to link atrocities to individual suspects were missed.
According to an Israeli military spokeswoman, the first objective in the mass casualty event was to identify remains so that families could be notified as quickly as possible. Many people did not know whether their relatives were killed, injured, or transferred to Gaza in the early days.

According to the Israeli judicial ministry, “victims were tortured, physically abused, raped, burned alive, and dismembered.” Hamas categorically denies any sexual assault or mutilation by members of its armed branch, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, on Oct. 7 or later.
Mendes’ statement is one of seven provided to Reuters by first responders or those dealing with the dead that allege sexual violence. Women were found semi-naked, bound, eviscerated, stripped, battered, shot in the head, or torched, according to witnesses, at two settlements, including Kibbutz Beeri, and at an open-air music festival near the Gaza border barrier.

Reuters examined photographs that matched some of the claims or attested to other potential atrocities. It could not, however, independently verify all of the accounts.
Taher al-Nono, the media adviser to Hamas’s political bureau chief, denied Hamas fighters were responsible for any sexual assaults in the incident and demanded “a serious and impartial international investigation into the matter.”

A United Nations committee of investigation into war crimes on both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict will look into Hamas’ charges of sexual abuse, following Israeli criticism that the UN had kept mute. Israel has accused the commission of being biased and has stated that it will not assist with the investigation.

There is evidence that Hamas raped or cut up dozens of Israeli women.


Sexual violence in Israeli law encompasses rape as well as indecent conduct, harrassment, and sexually humiliating a person – including forced nudity – among other offenses. Three legal experts told Reuters that a conviction might be based on witnesses and circumstantial evidence even in the absence of physical proof.


However, police investigators have stated that one of the challenges they have is that many victims are deceased or traumatized.


According to Orit Soliciano, chairman of Israel’s Association of Rape Crisis Centres, an estimated “few dozen” surviving victims and witnesses have already sought help. According to her, it can take years for a victim or witness to come forward.


Many alleged victims are voiceless.


“All the women who were murdered and may have suffered sexual violence cannot tell us,” Hila Neubach, director of legal affairs at Israel’s Association of Rape Crisis Centers, told Reuters. “Witnesses perhaps too did not survive.”


Authorities have imposed a gag order on the probe, but commander Shelly Harush informed parliament on Nov. 27 that they had 1,500 testimonies from survivors, security personnel, first responders, and victims’ families about crimes such as sexual abuse, rape, and genital mutilation. Government organizations and first responders have released at least a dozen harrowing testimony.



The dead were sometimes discovered days after the Oct. 7 incident. Ordinary standards for forensically proving rape are practically impossible when remains come at such a degree of decay, according to Chen Kugel, Head of the Israel National Center of Forensic Medicine. “Maybe if we had checked them in the first 24 hours (that would be possible),” he remarked.


Even in normal circumstances, about 80% of sexual crime cases in Israel are closed each year due to insufficient evidence, according to justice ministry data. Prosecuting the cases from October 7 will necessitate a different approach.


“In a criminal case, a specific defendant is convicted of harming a specific victim,” said Dana Pugach, an Ono Academic College law professor. “They will have to look at an entirely different legal construct in this case.”


Prosecutors could rely on a legal notion known as shared responsibility, which was utilized earlier this year in Israel to convict 11 people of sexual violence for gang rape.


Proof of purpose and co-conspiracy will be required.



The testimonies are piling up. Rabbi Israel Weiss informed reporters at the Shura base that several bodies were naked and “torn apart.”


Nachman Dyksztejn, a Zaka Search and Rescue volunteer who was at the festival, testified to Reuters that he observed scores of dead women in shelters: “Their clothing was torn on the upper part, but their bottoms were completely naked.”


Rami Shmuel, a concert producer who assisted in the festival’s search for casualties, said he observed the bodies of three ladies, one naked and the other two stripped from the waist down. He stated one was plainly shot in the back of the head and burnt.


According to police, they have over 60,000 “visual documents” including recordings from Go-Pro cameras worn by the attackers, CCTV footage, and photographs from drones.


The allegations are bolstered by online video clips. Some of the purportedly showing sexual abuse could not be verified; one seen by Reuters looked to date from 2021.


The news agency confirmed the locations of two other films that appear to depict sexual abuse and were posted on social media within a day of the attack. Reuters was unable to determine who initially posted them.


One of these depicted the half-naked body of a festival attendee, later recognized publicly by her mother as tattoo artist Shani Louk, draped across the back of a pickup truck and paraded across Gaza.


The other showed a young barefoot lady, also named by her mother, being dragged by her hair from the trunk of a van in Gaza and thrown into the back seat by an armed guy amid screams of “God is great.” Her hands are shackled. Her pants’ seat is bloodied, as are her ankles and arm. What happened to her is not depicted in the image.


The death of Louk has been confirmed by Israeli authorities. They believe the other woman is still alive and well in Gaza.


On November 14, police showed reporters video of an unidentified witness to the festival incident. She said in it that she witnessed a band of gunmen rape one woman and cut off another’s breast and throw it on the street. She later said that a gunman shot the woman in the head while rapping her. Police have refused to identify the witness or make her available to Reuters.


According to legal expert Neubach, witness testimony alone cannot always secure an indictment or conviction. However, she believes that the information gathered thus far is reliable enough to conclude that sexual and gender-based violence has most certainly occurred.



If Israeli prosecutions prove difficult, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague was established to prosecute people responsible for war crimes. It has already stated that it has jurisdiction over atrocities perpetrated on Israeli soil that day by Palestinians.


If governments are unwilling or unable to pursue war crimes committed by citizens of its members or on its territory, the tribunal can step in. According to the ICC, its prosecutor has gathered a substantial amount of material and evidence.


According to Israeli lawyers, the proof requirements for sexual violence are less stringent than Israel’s. It does not, for example, require victim testimony. If the crimes took occurred during mass tragedies, victims’ non-consent is usually not required to be established separately.


According to two lawyers, they are compiling evidence to submit there. Yael Vias Gvirsman, located in Tel Aviv, is gathering evidence for the families of 54 victims, including victims of sexual and gender-based assault, she added. She declined to elaborate, but stated that there are a few critical witnesses.


However, the ICC is difficult for the Israeli state: Israel does not recognize its jurisdiction, despite the fact that Israeli people and the state itself are free to submit evidence.


“That brings us to a sort of, I’ll call it the Israeli dilemma,” Vias Gvirsman said, referring to where such cases would be decided. She claims that while Israel may hold certain culprits, it lacks the ability to put to trial the instigators, commanders, or aiders and abetters that the ICC could.


She and another lawyer believe the Israeli government will eventually turn to the ICC. The Israeli Justice Ministry declined to comment on whether it will approach the tribunal, but stated that it would seek legal action against anyone guilty for the Oct. 7 attacks, wherever they may be.


“Normally, the Israeli Defense Force, the Israeli government, would say, ‘We have no dealings with the ICC,'” Geert-Jan Knoops, lead defence attorney at the tribunal, told Reuters.


“However, this is beyond comprehension. I believe Israel has an interest in providing evidence to the ICC prosecutor and in the events of October 7.”

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