UN will investigate sexual assault, rape, in Hamas' October 7 attack, Guterres assures

Following weeks of silence by women's organizations and international bodies, UN secretary-general says issue needs to be 'vigorously investigated'; Israel's UN envoy: 'When it comes to Israeli women, sexual violence that has been proven and determined by state authorities still needs to be investigated'
Itamar Eichner, Retuers|
Against the backdrop of widespread anger in Israel over the silence of women's organizations and international bodies regarding the severe sexual violence used by Hamas terrorists against women in the attack on October 7, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Thursday that these actions must be thoroughly investigated.
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“There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” Guterres wrote on the X platform – more than seven weeks after the attack in which more than 1,200 Israelis were killed.
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מזכ"ל האו"ם אנטוניו גוטרש משבר מזון
מזכ"ל האו"ם אנטוניו גוטרש משבר מזון
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
(Photo: AP )
“Gender-based violence must be condemned. Anytime. Anywhere,” added Guterres, who has made a series of critical statements against Israel throughout the war against Hamas.
Guterres’ words were received poorly in Israel, and Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, who has already called for his resignation, criticized him. "The secretary-general’s statement only emphasizes the fact that for him, when it comes to Israeli women, sexual violence that has been proven and determined by state authorities still needs to be 'investigated,'” Erdan said.
"When it comes to Israeli women, doubt can be cast, one can wait 60 days, and one can call for an unknown entity to conduct an investigation into the matter. There’s no acknowledgement that Hamas committed these crimes," he added.
"The secretary-general, is just trying to appease the justified anger of many around the world over his and the UN’s shameful silence," Erdan continued. "The secretary-general ignores Hamas’ heinous sexual offenses, but when it comes to Hamas' accusations and the 'Gazan Health Ministry’ against Israel on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, there are no doubts, and no investigations are needed."
Erdan called on Guterres to participate in a conference he’s initiating, expected to take place next week, where evidence and findings of the sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists will be presented. "I again invite the Secretary-General to join, unequivocally condemn Hamas for committing heinous crimes, and earnestly act to launch an investigation against Hamas," he said.
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גלעד ארדן באו"ם
גלעד ארדן באו"ם
Gilad Erdan
(Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)
Parallel to Guterres's statement, Navi Pillay, the chair of the UN committee investigating war crimes by both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declared Wednesday she now intends to focus her investigation on the acts of sexual violence committed on October 7. " I'm now sitting as chair of a commission with the power to investigate this. So there's no way we will not do so, " Pillay said in an interview with Reuters.
Pillay added that she intends to issue a public call to submit evidence of sexual violence to the UN committee. She noted that her intention is to present the evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague so that it can assist in filing indictments.
She also said that she was impressed by the ICC Deputy Prosecutor Nazhat Shameem Khan, who she believes places significant emphasis on prosecuting sexual violence. "She wishes to investigate the incidents of sexual violence, the complaints coming from Israel,” Pillay said.
According to Pillay, there are already individuals willing to testify before her committee, but it is reasonable to assume that she will face great difficulty in accessing evidence held by Israel since Jerusalem refuses to cooperate with her investigative committee due to its anti-Israel stance.
The UN committee was established after Operation Guardians of the Walls in 2021 by the UN Human Rights Council, with the authority to investigate crimes committed in the Palestinian territories, without any time limitations.
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נאווי פילאי
נאווי פילאי
Navi Pillay
(Photo: Reuters)
The committee previously published a highly critical report against Israel, saying the “Israeli occupation” is illegal and could be considered a war crime. However, it did not address the 2021 clashes that it was formed to examine or mention Hamas at all in the report’s 28 pages.
One of the committee members, a Qatari UN official named Miloon Kothari, previously called suicide bombings by Palestinians "legitimate resistance." Pillay herself, a former South African jurist who served as the UN Human Rights Commissioner in the past, sharply criticized Israel after the outbreak of the current war, stating that the IDF's bombings in Gaza are "utterly shocking."
She condemned the large number of reported Palestinian casualties, claimed by unconfirmed Palestinian reports to be more than 15,000 . In an interview with Reuters, Pillay added that cases of journalists' deaths in the war would also be a priority for her committee’s investigation.
Israeli authorities are already conducting their own investigation into acts of sexual violence committed by the terrorists on October 7, particularly cases of rape. Forensic evidence has been collected on the bodies of some murdered Israeli women.
Reuters notes in this context that testimonies about such acts were provided to them by rescue personnel on the scene as well as IDF reserve soldiers who participated in the body identification process. The news agency, whose reports are widely published worldwide, emphasizes that it has received images confirming some of these testimonies.
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