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Hamas welcomes report debunking Israel’s ‘sexual assault’ allegations

By News Desk

May 23, 2024 07:23 PM

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Hamas has welcomed an investigation by The Associated Press on Wednesday that debunked Israeli allegations that Hamas fighters engaged in sexual assault during the surprise attack on October 7, 2023.

The probe by the global news outlet debunked unfounded claims by members of the Israeli search and rescue organisation, ZAKA.  The false allegations spread across Western media and contributed to the United Nations report on sexual assault of women during the attack despite the lack of evidence.

“Some allege the accounts of sexual assault were purposely concocted. ZAKA officials and others dispute that. Regardless, AP’s examination of ZAKA’s handling of the now debunked stories shows how information can be clouded and distorted in the chaos of the conflict,” the AP said in its report.

In a statement released after the AP report came out, Hamas called the probe “a new slap in the face of the promoters of these baseless allegations.”

Hamas also said the false information was used to “demonise the resistance and to cover up the humanitarian behaviour that appeared to the world regarding the resistance’s good treatment of Zionist prisoners during their detention.”

The Palestinian group called on U.S. President Joe Biden and other officials in some European countries to issue an apology and stop repeating the “false accusations.”

Hamas also called on UN Special Envoy for Sexual Violence in Conflict Areas, Pramila Patten, “to re-evaluate and review her report” over the allegations that were based on the Israeli narratives without a thorough investigation.

Israel has used the attack on October 7 and the now debunked claims of sexual assault as a pretext for its genocidal war on Gaza.

At the time of the attack, Chaim Otmazgin, a volunteer commander with ZAKA, claimed he saw the body of an Israeli teenager shot dead and left partially unclothed while being in a room separated from the rest of her family.

“They slaughtered her. They shot her in the head and her pants are pulled down to here. I put that out there. Have someone give me a different interpretation,” he had said while showing an AP reporter a photo he took of the scene.

Three months later, ZAKA, which does not do forensic work, found that its volunteer’s accounts were wrong after cross-checking them with military contacts. Instead, it turned out that the body was dragged across the room by Israeli soldiers to ensure the place was clear from a booby trap. Her pants had slipped in the process, the AP reported.

Otmazgin himself had admitted providing inaccurate claims, which he first said during a televised appearance in the Israeli parliament.

“It’s not that I invented a story,” Otmazgin told the AP. “I couldn’t think of any other option” other than the teen having been sexually assaulted, he said, admitting that he personally did not have any evidence to back his claims.

The Israeli military also told the news agency that they did not conduct forensic work following the Hamas attack and all bodies were placed into body bags for immediate burial.

Yossi Landau, a longtime ZAKA volunteer, was also behind the rippling effect of false information. Landau had told global media that he thought he found “a pregnant woman lying on the floor” with her fetus out of her body, still attached to the umbilical cord.

Otmazgin saw the body of a heavy woman and an unidentifiable item attached to an electric cable, which he pointed out to Landau.  The longtime ZAKA volunteer told his version of the story to global journalists while claiming he also saw beheaded children and babies, another since-debunked claim.

Landau’s allegations were behind the fake reports that were widely cited by American and Israeli media outlets as well as officials from the U.S. and Israel.

This also included President Biden, who also spread uncorroborated allegations that Hamas fighters had allegedly beheaded the Israeli babies last October, before a White House spokesperson clarified to The Washington Post that his remarks were primarily based on the Israeli reports and diplomats.

Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, also debunked the claims.

Despite the lack of evidence and proof of falsified reports, Orit Sulitzeanu, the executive director of The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said the claims were merely “mistakes.”

“Some of those stories that turned out not to be true were not lies,” she insisted.

The AP report highlighted a wider pattern of fake information against Hamas and Palestinians aimed at justifying Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza, including the attacks on hospitals.

Since October 7, 2023, Israel has killed more than 35,709 people, mostly women and children, with at least 7,000 others presumed dead under the rubble.

Almost 70 children have been getting injured in Gaza every day since the beginning of Israel’s war according to figures shared by the United Nations’ children’s agency (UNICEF) on April 16. Israel has now been accused of genocide.

Meanwhile, in February, UN experts sounded the alarm over credible allegations of human rights violations against Palestinian women and girls in Gaza and the West Bank.

The experts said at least two female Palestinian detainees were “reportedly raped” as others said they were threatened with sexual violence.

“We are particularly distressed by reports that Palestinian women and girls in detention have also been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault, such as being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers,” the experts said.

Authorities in Gaza also continue to discover mass graves of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces, which may be evidence of war crimes, according to Amnesty International.

Tariq Kenney-Shawa, a U.S. policy fellow at Al-Shabaka told the AP that Israel’s exaggerated accounts of Hamas’ attack served to dehumanize Palestinians as its military continues its deadly offensive.

News Desk

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