Brutal Witness Accounts of Hamas Sexual Violence 6:09
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(CNN) -- Simchat Greyman had to pause several times as he described the evidence of sexual violence he saw while recovering the bodies of victims of the Hamas terror attack on Israel on October 7.
One of the corpses was so badly battered that he and his colleagues at ZAKA, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish organization that recovers human remains, could not distinguish whether it was a man or a woman.
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Greyman described finding a woman shot in the back of the head, lying on her bed, naked from the waist down. He had a grenade in his hand.
And then there was the body with the nails.
"They called me to a house, told me there were a few dead bodies there. I saw before my eyes a woman lying down. I was naked and had nails...," Greyman managed to say before pausing for a long time, struggling to get the words out.
"He had nails and different objects in his female organs. Her body was brutalized in such a way that we couldn't identify her," he added, with the trauma clearly visible on his face.
Greyman was testifying at a United Nations session on sexual and gender-based violence in the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack, hosted by Israel at U.N. headquarters in New York on Monday.
He was one of several eyewitnesses invited to speak at the meeting, providing evidence that sexual violence and rape took place and that Hamas used them as weapons during the attacks.
CNN cannot independently verify individual allegations and claims. However, several first responders who attended the scenes of the October 7 bombing told CNN that the attacks were overwhelmingly horrendous and that some female victims were found without clothing.
Personal effects strewn across the grounds of the Supernova Music Festival, where hundreds of people were killed and dozens kidnapped by Hamas. Credit: Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images/File
Accumulation of evidence
The evidence of sexual violence presented during the UN session was extensive and overwhelming and came from a variety of sources.
As Greyman talked about his experience in search and rescue operations, Yael Richert, superintendent of the Israel Police, shared information gathered during the investigation so far.
He noted that survivors of the terror attack told investigators that they had witnessed Hamas terrorists perpetrating acts of sexual violence against the victims. She cited the testimonies of several people who witnessed or saw clear evidence of sexual violence.
"There were girls with broken pelvises because of repeated rapes, with their legs spread in a canal," Richert said, quoting a survivor of the Nova music festival massacre. "We heard girls being taken out of shelters. Screaming girls. The girls were raped. They were burned right after. All the bodies outside were burned," Richert said, reading from another testimony.
A survivor's account of the October 7 attacks 5:01 AM
Shari Mendes, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservist who dealt with the bodies of soldiers killed during the attack, also described the evidence she saw, saying that many of the corpses arrived with "torn and bloodied rags or just underwear and this was often heavily bloodied."
Photographs and videos of the scenes back up Mendes' accounts. A video geolocated by CNN in a Gaza neighborhood showed a young, barefoot woman pulled from the trunk of a Jeep by an attacker and then forced into the back seat of the car. His pants were soaked with what appeared to be blood.
"Our team commander saw several female soldiers who had been shot in the crotch, private parts, vagina or chest. There appears to be systematic genital mutilation of a group of victims," he added.
The Knesset, Israel's parliament, last week held a separate session on sexual violence. One Knesset member, Yulia Malinovsky, accused Hamas of "raping women to humiliate" Israel as a nation.
Despite the evidence, Hamas has repeatedly denied allegations that its fighters committed sexual violence during the attack.
Israeli and U.S. officials believe Hamas is still holding several female civilians in their 20s and 30s, despite agreeing to release all women and children as part of last week's truce agreement. U.S. President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Hamas' refusal to release them was "what broke this agreement and ended the pause in fighting."
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The Israel Police said earlier that it had been interrogating suspects, collecting evidence from the scenes of the terror attack and interviewing witnesses as part of its investigation into the sex crimes and other atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7.
While the evidence of sexual violence found on the victims' bodies seemed overwhelming, police said last month that their investigators had no first-hand testimony from survivors and that it was not even clear whether any of the victims had survived.
Since then, dozens of hostages have been released from Gaza as part of a truce between Israel and Hamas, and some have also mentioned sexual abuse during their testimonies.
On Tuesday, following a private meeting with some of the freed hostages and relatives of those still being held in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had heard stories of sexual abuse.
"I've heard, and so have you, about sexual abuse and incidents of brutal rape like nothing else," he told a news conference.
Israel's public broadcaster, Channel 11, obtained and released audio of Tuesday's meeting, in which some of the former hostages described their time in captivity.
"They're touching the girls and everyone knows it," one of them said.
In addition to Israel, several international organizations have pledged to investigate sexual crimes committed by Hamas. Last week, the chairman of a U.N. commission of inquiry into possible war crimes on both sides of the Israel-Hamas war said he would investigate accounts of sexual violence allegedly perpetrated on Oct. 7.
Demonstrators protest outside the United Nations headquarters in New York on Dec. 4, 2023. Credit: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images
Israel has accused international organizations and the media of ignoring the issue.
Netanyahu reproached the U.N. for what he called a delay in acknowledging allegations of sexual violence committed by Hamas.
"I have heard stories that have broken my heart about torture, both mental and physical," Netanyahu told a news conference after his meeting Tuesday with former hostages in Tel Aviv.
Israel's prime minister added that until "a few days ago" he had not heard the UN or human rights organizations repudiate the reported sexual violence.
The United Nations agency, UN Women, became the main target of criticism from activists, who accused it of being silent about sexual crimes committed by Hamas and focusing on the plight of women in Gaza. UN Women issued a statement on Monday condemning the attacks and saying it was "alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during these attacks."
"I say to women's rights organizations. To human rights organizations, I say that they have heard about the rape of Israeli women. Horrific atrocities, sexual mutilations. Where the hell are they?" said Netanyahu.
Biden also addressed the issue at a fundraiser in Boston on Tuesday, calling on "all of us, government, international organizations, civil society, and businesses, to strongly condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists unambiguously. No misunderstandings, no exceptions."
He said testimonies and reports that have been shared in recent weeks showed "unimaginable cruelty."
"Reports of women repeatedly raped and their mutilated bodies still alive, of women's corpses desecrated, of Hamas terrorists inflicting all possible pain and suffering on women and girls and then murdering them. It's appalling," Biden said.
CNN's Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report from London.
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