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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
2 Dec 2023


UN women’s agency condemns Hamas attacks, eight weeks after atrocities

The United Nations women’s rights group broke its silence on allegations of sex crimes carried out by Hamas and condemned the October 7 attacks nearly two months after they took place.

The United Nations women’s rights group broke its silence on allegations of sex crimes carried out by Hamas and condemned the October 7 attacks nearly two months after they took place.

Some 57 days after the attacks, UN Women said yesterday: “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,” the statement said, adding that the organisation had called for all accounts of gender-based violence to be investigated and prosecuted.

Israeli officials have repeatedly accused global organisations including the UN and the World Health Organisation of not doing enough to condemn Hamas for its brutal attack.

Members of Army rescue and ZAKA crews search for bodies and body parts after the Hamas and Palestinians militants attack on the Kibbutz
Members of Army rescue and ZAKA crews search for bodies and body parts after the Hamas and Palestinians militants attack on the Kibbutz Credit: Amir Levy

Israeli authorities have pushed those organisations to issue stronger rebukes, saying ample evidence of crimes conducted by Hamas terrorists, including sexual violence, had been provided.

The statement from UN Women began by saying it “deeply regretted” the resumption of hostilities in Gaza after a seven day truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed.

“We reiterate that all women - Israeli women, Palestinian women, as all others - are entitled to a life lived in safety and free from violence.”

Responding to the statement, Israel’s foreign minister Eli Cohen called on the group’s executive director to quit.

“The behaviour of UN Women since the massacre on October 7 has been shameful,” Mr Cohen said. “Their statement is tepid and late, coming after nearly two months of silence and turning a blind eye to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and sexual crimes committed by the Hamas terror group.”

UN Women also repeated its call for the release of all hostages, and a humanitarian ceasefire, as the death toll in the Gaza Strip has ticked up to more than 15,000 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry – nearly seven times the casualties from the last major conflict in 2014, which lasted 50 days.

Global organisations like the UN, and human rights organisations, have drawn the ire of Israeli officials after raising concerns about the massive humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes.

Pictures of over 1,000 persons abducted, missing or killed in the Hamas attack are displayed on empty seats in the Smolarz Auditorium at Tel Aviv University on October 22, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel
Pictures of over 1,000 persons abducted, missing or killed in the Hamas attack are displayed on empty seats in the Smolarz Auditorium at Tel Aviv University on October 22, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel Credit: Leon Neal

In October, Israel demanded that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres retract comments he made about Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza, and resign.

“I have condemned unequivocally the horrifying and unprecedented 7 October acts of terror by Hamas in Israel,” Mr Guterres said in October at a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

“Nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians – or the launching of rockets against civilian targets.”

He also added that it was “important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.”

“The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.”

Israeli officials have hit back strongly at critics of its policies over the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

The Israeli government has also rejected notions that its policies may have created enough tension and desperation among Palestinians living in Gaza to spur an attack by Hamas.

The Israeli authorities have already indicated that they will stop issuing visas for UN officials in the row over the international body’s statements on the conflict.

Israel has reportedly refused to renew a visa for Lynn Hastings, the UN’s top official for the Palestinian territories.

She, like many other UN officials, has strongly criticised Israel for withholding aid into Gaza, and for the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Israel has pushed back by saying she isn’t doing enough to draw attention to casualties caused by Hamas.

In late October, Israel’s ambassador to the UN Meirav Eilon Shahar said that her country had been “let down” by the global body by not more strongly condemning Hamas and growing anti-Semitism.

Her comments seemed to refer to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus raising concerns about civilian deaths in Gaza.

“A relentless night in Gaza,” said James Elder, a Unicef spokesperson in Gaza on Saturday Morning. “In a place so densely populated with civilians, everything must hit something…someone.”