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The Israel-Hamas War: Operation Iron Sword
The Atrocities (Warning Graphic)

(October 7, 2023 - Present)
By Mitchell Bard

The Unthinkable
Sexual Abuse
HRW Report

The Unthinkable

More Jews were murdered in one day than at any other time since the Holocaust. People were murdered sleeping in their beds, waiting for the bus, dancing at a music festival, and doing morning chores. Men, women, and children were slaughtered. The way many were murdered mirrored the worst Nazi atrocities:

Baby murdered by Hamas terrorists
  • People were decapitated.
  • Grenades were thrown into safe rooms.
  • Buildings were burned to the ground.
  • People were burned alive.
  • Women were raped.
  • Victims died when trapped in buildings set on fire.
  • People were smoked out of their hiding places and shot.
  • Children were shot in front of their parents.
  • Parents were shot in front of their children.
  • Corpses of older people, women, and children were found with multiple gunshot wounds.
  • Faces were blown off, and grenades and RPGs ripped apart bodies.
  • Arms and feet were chopped off.
  • Pets were shot.

Searching bullet-riddled houses, streets, and cars, Israeli soldiers retaking control of the kibbutzim, towns, and settlements near the border were still recovering bodies days after the invasion. One volunteer for the Zaka organization, which collects human remains, described some of what he found at Kibbutz Be’eri. After entering one home, he found a dead woman: “Her stomach was ripped open, a baby was there, still connected with the cord, and stabbed.” He also saw around 20 children who had their hands tied behind their backs before being shot and set on fire. Other bodies, he said, appeared to be sexually abused. Some of the statements from the Zaka volunteers were later found to be inaccurate.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before Congress and related one atrocity story: 

A family of four. A young boy and girl, 6 and 8 years old, and their parents around the breakfast table. The father’s eye gouged out in front of his kids. The mother’s breast cut off, the girl’s foot amputated, the boy’s fingers cut off - before they were executed. And then their executioners sat down and had a meal.

One captured terrorist told interrogators his men had received religious permission to kill children “because they’ll grow up to be soldiers” and to decapitate “to sow fear among the Israelis.”

Authorities learned more from documents found on captured and deceased terrorists. A computer file found on one terrorist had instructions for making chemical weapons, specifically a “cyanide dispersion device.”

Israel also released an audio recording of a terrorist calling his parents to tell them that he was using the phone of a Jewish woman he killed along with her husband. He boasted that he killed ten Jews with his bare hands.

Reporters and ambassadors to Israel were shown a compilation video from cameras found on terrorists who were captured and killed, documenting the atrocities as they were being committed. The reporters were allowed to write about the content but not distribute the images, though many were available online, some posted by Hamas.

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana asked permission to show Members of Knesset the same raw footage so they “know who and what we are facing” and “we will all know how much our path in this war against this evil is justified.” Several of the 50 members who attended left in tears.

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades commander Saleh al-Arouri denied Hamas committed the atrocities and attributed them to other Gazans. “When the Gaza Division fell apart,” he said, “people from the Strip went in and clashed with the settlers. As a result, people were killed.”

Ordinary Palestinians joined in the pogrom. “The second wave of Arabs who came into the country were just as cruel as the terrorists of the first wave,” Gadi Yarkoni, the mayor of the Eshkol Regional Council, told the Washington Free Beacon. “We saw that it was not only Hamas who came to slaughter us. It was all the residents of Gaza, including people who worked in our kibbutzim.”

Sexual Abuse

Reports of rape were also gathered from witnesses. Captured terrorists revealed during interrogations that they were instructed to “dirty” or “whore” the women.

One member of an all-female volunteer team responsible for preparing female corpses told The Sunday Times what she witnessed. “Opening the body bags was scary as we didn’t know what we would see. They were all young women. Most in little clothing or shredded clothing and their bodies bloodied particularly round their underwear and some women shot many times in the face as if to mutilate them....We saw women whose pelvises were broken. Legs broken. There were women who had been shot in the crotch, in the breasts … there seems no doubt what happened to them.” Equally horrific accounts were relayed by witnesses, soldiers, and volunteer medics to the New York Times.

Jewish feminists and others were outraged that women’s organizations said nothing about the violence against women on October 7. Jewish women began to use the hashtag #MeToo_UNless_UR_A_Jew.

After weeks of silence, UN Women posted on Instagram, “We condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on October 7 and continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.” That statement was quickly replaced with one without the condemnation of Hamas.

On December 1, UN Women issued a new statement that first said, “All women, Israeli women, Palestinian women, as all others, are entitled to a life lived in safety and free from violence” before declaring, “We unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on 7 October. We are alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks. This is why we have called for all accounts of gender-based violence to be duly investigated and prosecuted, with the rights of the victim at the core.”

It was not only women who were abused. According to a doctor who examined the released hostages, at least ten, including men, were sexually assaulted or abused in captivity.

President Biden said, “Reports of women raped — repeatedly raped — and their bodies being mutilated while still alive — of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them, It is appalling.” He added, “The world can’t just look away at what’s going on. It’s on all of us — government, international organizations, civil society and businesses — to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation. Without equivocation, without exception.”

Later, at a campaign reception, Biden reiterated his condemnation of “Hamas’s using rape, sexual violence, terrorism, and torture of Israeli women and girls without equivocation, without exception. I saw some of the photographs when I was there — tying a mother and her daughter together on a rope and then pouring kerosene on them and then burning them, beheading infants, doing things that are just inhuman — totally, completely inhuman.”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said of Hamas, “It seems one of the reasons they don’t want to turn women over they’ve been holding hostage, and the reason this pause fell apart is they don’t want those women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody.”

On December 22, 2023, an investigation by The New York Times unveiled the extent of sexual atrocities that have transpired. Visual evidence of the attacks on October 7, provided by Israeli authorities to The New York Times, depicted a woman subjected to brutal mutilation, with numerous nails driven into her thighs and genitals. Additional footage revealed the bodies of both soldiers and civilians who had suffered fatal injuries to the groin area, inflicted by either gunshots or stabbings.

On March 4, 2024, a UN team investigated the allegations of the sexual abuse of hostages taken on October 7 and found “clear and convincing information” of rape, and sexualized torture committed against them. The report said they also found a “pattern of victims, mostly women, found fully or partially naked, bound and shot across multiple locations which ‘may be indicative of some forms of sexual violence.’” The investigators concluded, “the true extent of sexual violence committed during the 7 October attacks and their aftermath, could ‘take months or years to emerge and may never be fully known’” (emphasis in the original).

In May, the IDF released interrogation videos in which a father and son belonging to Hamas -- Jamal Hussein Ahmad Radi, 47, and his son Abdallah, 18 -- admitted raping women and murdering and kidnapping other Israelis. Jamal said he saw a woman in one house in Kibbutz Nir Oz. “I took her to another room and had sex with her. She was screaming, she was crying, and I did what I did, I raped her,” he said.

Abdallah said his cousin Ahmad also participated. “My father raped her, then I did and then Ahmad did and then we left, but my father killed the woman after we finished raping her,” he said. Abdallah admitted he raped a second woman and killed two people.

The IDF also released captured documents that included a list of phrases in Hebrew and Arabic, evidence the terrorists planned to sexually abuse the Israelis they encountered. The phrases included:  “Take off your pants,” “Take off your clothes,” “Women here,” and “Raise your hands and spread your legs.”

HRW Report

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on July 17, 2024, that documented war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by at least five Palestinian armed groups: Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades; the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Quds Brigades; the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s armed wing, the National Resistance Brigades or Omar al-Qasim Forces; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s armed wing, the Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades; and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, formerly linked to the Fatah political faction.

The crimes included:

  • Palestinian fighters repeatedly attacked civilians and summarily executed individuals in their custody. The killings of civilians appear planned because of the many similarities in how killings took place across the attack sites.
  • Fighters also often extensively damaged people’s property, including by smashing and vandalizing, as well as by burning some buildings to the ground, putting civilians inside at grave risk.
  • Palestinian fighters committed acts of torture and ill-treatment against individuals they had captured, including those being taken as hostages.
  • Acts of sexual and gender-based violence by fighters, including forced nudity and the posting without consent of sexualized images on social media. HRW did not include rape because it said it couldn’t gather “verifiable information through interviews with survivors of or witnesses to rape.” Still, it mentioned the UN investigation, which did find evidence of rape and gang rape.
  • The Qassam Brigades and other armed groups have released multiple videos showing hostages asking to be released and demanding action from the Israeli government to secure their release. The broadcast of these videos of people in captivity are forms of inhumane treatment that constitute the war crime of “outrages upon personal dignity.”
  • Palestinian fighters and unarmed people, some of whom may have been civilians from Gaza, stole from homes during the October 7 assault. In some cases, they demanded money and other possessions from civilians sheltering inside their houses.
  • Given, therefore, that on October 7, 2023, there was an attack directed against a civilian population and that the murder of civilians and the taking of hostages—imprisonment in violation of fundamental rules of international law—were part of it, these amount to crimes against humanity.

Note that, like much of the media, HRW does not refer to those who committed these heinous acts as “terrorists.” They were simply “armed groups.” The group rationalizes that “there is no internationally agreed-upon definition, and because the label has no bearing on the international legal obligations of warring parties.”

Table of Contents for Israel-Hamas War