update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

At White House, former Israeli captive recounts Hamas sexual abuse

Following released hostage Amit Soussan's account of her ordeal, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said, "We cannot look away."

Released hostage Amit Soussana in front of her destroyed home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, southern Israel, Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Paulina Patimer.
Released hostage Amit Soussana in front of her destroyed home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, southern Israel, Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Paulina Patimer.

Released Israeli hostage Amit Soussana on Monday recalled the sexual assault she experienced at the hands of Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip during a White House event marking International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

“If someone had told me a few months ago while I was sitting in a dark room in Gaza tied up by my ankle and unable to move that I would be standing here today before you all, I would have thought that they were out of their mind,” she told attendees.

“The sexual assault I experienced should never happen to any human being under any circumstances. No one should ever be sexually violated, and there are no justifying circumstances for these crimes,” Soussana stated.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris vowed not to remain silent after hearing Soussana’s story, saying the Israeli survivor, an attorney, “has bravely come forward with her account of sexual violence while she was held captive by Hamas” for 54 days.

“These testimonies, I fear, will only increase as more hostages are released,” said the vice president. “We cannot look away. And we will not be silent.”

Harris said that after Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre in Israel’s northwestern Negev, she witnessed “images of bloody Israeli women abducted.”

“Then it came to light that Hamas committed rape and gang rape at the Nova music festival,” she said. “And women’s bodies were found naked from the waist down, hands tied behind their back and shot in the head.”

The vice president said her “heart breaks for all these survivors and their families, and for all the pain and suffering over the last eight months in Israel and in Gaza.”

In an interview in March, Soussana revealed that she was sexually assaulted in Gaza. While several female hostages freed in the November ceasefire have alluded to being sexually abused, the interview marked the first time that a former captive publicly detailed Hamas sex crimes.

Soussana told The New York Times that she was held in a children’s bedroom, chained by her ankle. On multiple occasions, a guard would enter, sit next to her on the bed, lift her shirt and touch her.

Some two weeks into her captivity, he attacked her after briefly freeing her from the shackles to use the bathroom. The guard forced her to “commit a sexual act on him” at gunpoint, she said.

At least 10 of the hostages released during the temporary truce were sexually assaulted or abused, a doctor who treated some of the 110 persons released from captivity told the Associated Press late last year.

In addition, Israel is investigating many accounts of sex crimes that occurred during the Oct. 7 terrorist infiltration, when thousands of heavily armed Hamas gunmen stormed the border, killing 1,200 people, wounding thousands and taking 253 hostages.

Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, the White House was blasted online for omitting Hamas’s crimes in a “fact sheet” put out in support of Harris’s speech.

“The Biden Administration put this out today—a ‘fact sheet’ [in] support of Kamala Harris’s speech condemning conflict-related sexual violence. It mentions Ukraine, Congo, Sudan, Iraq and other locations, except one: Israel,” former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said on Monday.

“I am just sickened by this,” he tweeted, later acknowledging that Harris did mention Hamas in her address.

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