Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic and disturbing accounts of sexual violence.
Israeli police are using forensic evidence, video and witness testimony and interrogations of suspects to document cases of rape amid the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
Women and girls caught in the rampage were brutalized sexually, as well as physically tortured and killed, witnesses to the aftermath say.
Police Superintendent Dudi Katz said officers have collected more than 1,000 statements and more than 60,000 video clips related to the attacks that include accounts from people who reported seeing women raped. He added that investigators do not have firsthand testimony, and it is not clear whether any rape victims survived.
About 1,200 Israelis were killed and more injured that day in villages and farms near Gaza when Hamas militants struck across the border in coordinated attacks, taking more than 240 hostages and precipitating the current war. More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Police Commissioner Shabtai Yaakov said the investigation could potentially lead to prosecutions, but for now, documentation is the primary mission.
Cochav Elkayam-Levy, a human rights law expert at Hebrew University, has formed a civil commission with colleagues to document evidence of the atrocities, fearing that as the war devastates Gaza and the lives of thousands of Palestinians, the world seems willing to look over the violence against Israeli women and girls.
“We’ll never know everything that has happened to them,” Elkayam-Levy told CNN. “We know that most women who were raped and who were sexually assaulted were also murdered.”
She pointed to a United Nations statement just a week after the terror attacks that did not mention sexual violence.
“It’s much worse than just silence or an insult to us as Israeli women and to our children and to our people,” she said of the UN. “When they are failing to acknowledge us, to acknowledge what happened here, they are failing humanity.”
Read more about the harrowing accounts given to CNN.