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Hamas rejects accusations of sexual violence in Israel attacks

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES — Hamas rejected on Monday accusations of rape and sexual violence by Palestinian forces during the group’s October 7 attacks on Israel, dismissing them as “unfounded lies”.

The Hamas statement comes days after UN Women said it was “alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities” during the attacks on southern Israel, which authorities say killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and responded with an intense military campaign that has killed 15,899 people in the Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israeli police say they have collecting evidence of sexual violence by militants who had stormed Israeli communities and army bases, ranging from alleged gang rapes to post-mortem mutilation.

But Hamas charged that the allegations were part of “Zionist campaigns which promote unfounded lies and allegations to demonise the Palestinian resistance”.

The Islamist group dismissed claims by women and advocacy groups as part of “a series” of Israeli “lies” since the start of the war.

In Israel, senior police officer Shelly Harush told lawmakers last week that investigators had collected “more than 1,500 shocking and difficult testimonies” from witnesses, medics and pathologists.

Harush spoke of “girls stripped bare above the waist and below”, and of a grisly witness account of the gang rape, mutilation and murder of a young woman.

Another witness she cited spoke of wounds to the “genitals, abdomen, legs and buttocks”, with some having their “breasts cut off” or sustaining “gunshot wounds”.

First responders described encountering bodies “with their hands cuffed behind their backs, a woman’s corpse bleeding from the genital area”.

Cochav Elkayam-Levy, head of an inquiry commission on gender-based violence during the Hamas attacks, said last month that “the great majority of the victims of rape and other sexual attacks on October 7 were killed and will never be able to testify”.

UN Women, contacted by AFP over anger expressed by Israeli women and legal activists complaining of inaction, said on Friday it was “aware of concerns” about the reactions of women’s organisations.

The UN body added its officials had men with Israeli women’s groups to hear testimonies from October 7 and to help them “expose” atrocities.

In a statement hours later, it said it was “alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence” during the Hamas attacks and had “called for all accounts of gender-based violence to be duly investigated and prosecuted”. — AFP

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