The United Nations’ special representative on sexual violence in conflict has accepted Israel’s invitation to investigate allegations of sex crimes committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, a spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.
The U.N. official, Pramila Patten, is expected to come to Israel within weeks and has been granted investigative authority by the foreign ministry, said the spokesman, Lior Haiat.
Ms. Patten “plans on briefing the media on the basis of the findings of her visit upon return to New York,” said Géraldine Boezio, a spokeswoman for her office.
Last month, The New York Times published an investigation that uncovered new details showing a pattern of rape, mutilation and extreme brutality against women during the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
The Times verified video footage and used photographs, GPS data from mobile phones and interviews with more than 150 people, including witnesses, medical personnel, soldiers and rape counselors, to establish that the attacks were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence.
In response to the Times investigation, Hamas said in a statement that the group’s leaders “categorically deny such allegations” and called them a part of Israel’s attempt to justify the killing of Palestinian civilians.
The group’s statement on Dec. 31 added that Hamas fighters’ “religion, values and culture” forbid such acts, and asserted that the short duration of the attack before the assailants withdrew to Gaza made the allegations implausible. It said it would welcome any international inquiries into the allegations.
A Hamas spokesman did not respond to an email sent on Tuesday.
Hamas has also denied committing atrocities against civilians in the Oct. 7 attack, but extensive witness testimony and documentary evidence, including videos posted on social media by Hamas fighters, indicate that Hamas gunmen in uniform killed civilians in their homes, in cars, on the streets and in other settings.
On Monday, two U.N. human rights experts said that the violence committed during the Hamas-led incursion, including sexual atrocities, amounted to war crimes, if not crimes against humanity.