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In an article in The Intercept, as a reaction to a front-page story in The New York Times about the gruesome Hamas attack on October 7, makes essentially the following claims: Ana Schwartz, who did the research on the ground, found no forensic experts or counsellors or survivors that proved that rapes where commited systematically, as claimed in the New York Times. Instead, she basically fell for propagandists who exaggerated claims or made them up. The Intercept quotes a podcast where Schwartz tells the story so:

At some story meetings, Schwartz said on the Channel 12 podcast, editors with Middle East expertise were there to offer probing questions. “We had a weekly meeting, and you bring out the status of your work on your project,” she said. “And Times writers and editors who are concerned with Middle Eastern affairs coming from all kinds of places in the world, they ask you questions that challenge you, and it’s excellent that they do that, because you yourself, all the time, like — you don’t believe yourself for a moment.”
Those questions were challenging to answer, she said: “One of the questions you get asked — and it’s the hardest ones to not be able to answer — if this has happened in so many places, how can it be that there is no forensic evidence? How can it be that there is no documentation? How can it be that there are no records? A report? An Excel spreadsheet? You are telling me about Shari [Mendes]? That’s someone who saw with her own eyes, and is now speaking to you — is there no [written] report to make what she’s saying authoritative?”
The host interjected. “And you went at that stage to those official Israeli authorities, and asked that they give you — something, anything. And how did they respond?”
“‘There is nothing,’” Schwartz said she was told. “‘There was no collection of evidence from the scene.’”

Regardless of quality of the reporting in the New York Times, is it correct that there is nothing to corrobate the accusations - "records? A report? An Excel spreadsheet?" by forensics experts, survivors, eye witnesses, counsellors or similar authoritative sources?

The attack on October 7 was horrific. Falsely (if it is false!) suggesting that Hamas comitted systematic sexual violence further traumatizes those who lost loved ones and now have to wonder what else happened to the victims.

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  • This UN report from today may be relevant.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Mar 4 at 23:16
  • 3
    @DanRomik That's not actually a report: it was a "mission" "which was not investigative in nature". The UN is also conducting an actual investigation right now, but Israel has blocked doctors from participating as they claim the investigators are all antisemitic
    – Avery
    Commented Mar 4 at 23:27
  • @Avery well, technically the link I posted was for a news release discussing “the report” (the UN’s words, not mine). It’s strange that your desire to fit reality to your preferred narrative is so great that you would deny that something is a “report”. Anyway, I don’t claim that it proves anything, I only said it seems relevant.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Mar 5 at 1:31
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    Here is the link to the report itself.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Mar 5 at 1:36
  • @DanRomik thx for the links. I heard about the report this morning, one day earlier and I might have not asked this question ...
    – mart
    Commented Mar 5 at 8:20

1 Answer 1

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The UN (SRSG-SVC) mission report linked by Dan Romik appears to stop short of using the word 'systematic' as such, but does say there were multiple, credible reports, e.g.:

Based on the information gathered by the mission team from multiple and independent sources, there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred during the 7 October attacks in multiple locations across Gaza periphery, including rape and gang rape, in at least three locations. [...]

Based on the examination of available information, including credible statements by eyewitnesses, there are reasonable grounds to believe that multiple incidents of rape, including gang rape, occurred in and around the Nova festival site during the 7 October attacks. Credible information was obtained regarding multiple incidents whereby victims were subjected to rape and then killed.

It does also note however that

There was a lack of access to first-hand testimonies of survivors/victims of sexual violence.

And even

In the medicolegal assessment of available photos and videos, no tangible indications of rape could be identified.

But they considered the circumstantial evidence

In the medicolegal assessment undertaken by the mission team of available photos and videos of crime scenes, a few corpses with conspicuously spread legs were observed. These postures could not be adequately explained by, for instance, “postmortem pugilistic posturing” due to burn damage. The reviewed photos and videos further revealed a minimum of twenty corpses with partially or fully exposed intimate body parts such as breasts and genitalia, resulting from the absence, displacement, or tearing of clothing. Also, at least ten distinct corpses displayed indications of bound wrists and/or tied legs.

But interestingly regarding the Hamas-released hostages they make stronger claims

The mission team reviewed incidents of alleged sexual violence related to hostages in Gaza. Based on the first-hand accounts of released hostages, the mission team received clear and convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment occurred against some women and children during their time in captivity and has reasonable grounds to believe that this violence may be ongoing.

Based on first-hand accounts of released hostages there are reasonable grounds to believe that female hostages were also subjected to other forms of sexual violence.

Also, FWTW, regarding the mission's purpose, there's a paragraph (#78) that explains that since the mission's scope was not 'investigative' it did not seek to establish whom exactly committed those acts.

(Apparently part of the politics of this mission was also a visit to the West Bank--and they also report from the there some claims of sexual violence in Israeli detention facilities. However, unlike the wording used to describe the ordeal of the hostages, this UN mission did not use the magic words 'clear and convincing' with respect to those Palestinian reports. They do have a para in the preamble that explains that “clear and convincing” information or evidence rises above “reasonable grounds to believe” yet falls below “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In fact, a perusal of those paras finds that even the lesser wording “reasonable grounds to believe” is not accorded to the Palestinians' claims.)

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