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‘Conspiracy of silence on Hamas atrocities must end’

by admin

7 December 2023, The Australian

Joe Biden has demanded global condemnation of “horrific” sexual violence by Hamas during the ­October 7 attacks and on Israeli hostages, as ­further evidence emerges of rape and mutilation.

The US President’s comments follow claims of a muted response from civil rights groups and international agencies.

On Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had “heard heart-rending stories, of hunger and thirst” as well as “about cases of sexual abuse and cruel rapes”.

He slammed international women’s and human rights organisations for what he said was their silence on the issue.

“Where the hell are you?” Mr Netanyahu said.

His comments were echoed by Mr Biden. “The world can’t just look away at what’s going on,” the President said in Boston.

“It’s on all of us – government, international organisations, civil society and businesses – to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation.

“Survivors and witnesses of the attacks have shared the horrific accounts of unimaginable cruelty. Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them – it is ­appalling.”

His comments came as video testimony of a witness at the Nova music festival, shown to journalists by Israeli police, detailed gang rapes, mutilation and executions.

In the video, the woman known as Witness S, described how a woman was gang raped and then shot in the head.

“She was alive,” the witness says. “She was bleeding.”

She goes on to detail how the terrorists cut off part of the victim’s body and “threw it on the street”.

Israel’s Women’s Empowerment Minister, May Golan, told the BBC that a few victims of rape or sexual assault had survived, and that they were all receiving psychiatric treatment. “But very, very few. The majority were brutally murdered,” she said. “They aren’t able to talk.”

It is believed there are 18 women receiving treatment.

Interviewed for an investigation by the BBC, Cochav Elkayam-Levy, a legal expert at the Davis Institute of International Relations at Hebrew University, said: “It really feels like Hamas learned how to weaponise women’s bodies from ISIS in Iraq, from cases in Bosnia.”

Captain Maayan, a reservist with a forensics team at the ­Israeli’s army’s Shura base, where bodies were taken after the attacks for identification, said there was clear evidence of rape and sexual violence.

“We see women of all ages,” she told the BBC. “We see rape victims. We see women who have been through violation.”

Asked how many bodies showed signs of sexual assault, she said: “Abundant. Abundant amount of women and girls of all ages.”

Israeli women and legal activists have accused international rights groups of maintaining a conspiracy of silence about such atrocities.

The UN secretary-general and UN Women issued statements on the allegations only last week, ­despite Israeli activists sending ­letters to UN agencies shortly after the attacks.

Campaigners say the responses were minimal, leaving them ­deeply frustrated and accusing the global human rights community of betrayal.

A US State Department spokesman said on Monday that Hamas likely delayed freeing ­female hostages because it did not want the women to speak publicly about sexual violence.

Hamas said the allegations of sexual assault were part of “Zionist campaigns which promote ­unfounded lies and allegations to demonise the Palestinian ­resistance”.

Israel on Tuesday said 138 hostages still remained in Gaza. In a meeting with Mr Netanyahu and some cabinet members, released hostages and family members called for immediate action for the release of the remaining ­captives.

“I asked Netanyahu if the primary objective of the war was to bring back the hostages,” Meirav Leshem Gonen, mother of 23-year-old hostage Romi Gonen, told Israeli television after the meeting.

“He answered me directly: ‘yes’,” she said. “I am happy with his answer, but only reality counts.”

Ms Leshem Gonen said she was concerned that hostages were being “severely mistreated – women, young girls, and men too”.

An Israeli health ministry official on Tuesday accused the Palestinian militants of giving sedatives to hostages released during the truce to make them appear “calm and happy” when they were ­handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Hagar Mizrahi, head of general medicine at the Israeli health ministry, made the allegation at a parliamentary session.

“They (Hamas militants) gave them Clonex pills to make them seem calm and happy before they were handed over,” Dr ­Mizrahi said.

She did not specify whether the information was based on blood tests or witness accounts, or how many hostages she was referring to. “They also gave them a little to eat just before their release, so that they left captivity in good form,” Dr Mizrahi said.

Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=b86ef852-5ce0-4141-a791-7072a283ffcd
Article source: The Australian / AFP | 7.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000