At least 10 of the Israeli civilians released by Hamas, both men and women, were sexually assaulted or abused while in captivity, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Details of the report
In a report detailing allegations of severe and widespread sexual abuse by Hamas terrorists during their October 7 onslaught and later against hostages, a doctor who treated some of the 110 hostages released from captivity told the AP that at least 10 men and women among those freed were sexually assaulted or abused.
He did not provide further details, and spoke on condition of anonymity to protect the hostages’ identities.The doctor’s comments corroborated similar accounts shared at a meeting on Tuesday.
Firsthand testimonies from some of the released captives
The meeting, held between the Israeli war cabinet and a group comprising recently freed hostages and family members of those still held in Gaza, featured firsthand testimonies from some of the released captives.
These individuals detailed their experiences of sexual abuse during their captivity, participants said.
Aviva Siegel, who was freed from Hamas captivity last week and whose husband, a US citizen, is still a hostage, reportedly said during the meeting that some of the women hostages were ‘being touched.’
Others said during the meeting that both men and women were sexually assaulted, according to leaks to Hebrew media.
The unusual meeting
Ronen Tzur, the director of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, said after the gathering that ‘this was an unusual meeting. Members of the cabinet heard for the first time from freed female hostages describing the difficult things that are going on in the tunnels, including sexual abuse, and the fact that the airstrikes are happening very close to where the captives are being held.’
Under a weeklong truce deal that expired on Friday, 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity in Gaza: 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino. Earlier, four hostages were released and one was rescued, and at least three bodies have been recovered.
Israel says that Hamas had an opportunity to extend the pause but refused to release all the women held, as the deal entailed.
It is believed that 138 hostages remain in Gaza, including some 20 women.
Why Hamas is holding onto the hostages
US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller suggested on Monday that Hamas is holding onto the hostages because it does not want them to testify about the sexual abuse they experienced in captivity.
While investigators are still trying to determine the scope of the sexual assaults, Israel has been accusing the international community, particularly the United Nations, of ignoring the pain of Israeli victims.