Blinken calls sexual violence inflicted by Hamas ‘beyond anything I’ve seen’

Dec 10, 2023, 11:40 AM

Secretary of State Antony Blinken appears on CNN's "State of the Union" on December 10. (CNN)...

Secretary of State Antony Blinken appears on CNN's "State of the Union" on December 10. (CNN)


(CNN)Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday forcefully condemned sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack and blasted those who have not forcefully condemned it or were slow to do so.

“I don’t know why countries, leaders, international organizations were so slow to focus on this, to bring it to people’s attention. I’m glad it is finally happening,” Blinken told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “The atrocities that we saw on October 7 are almost beyond human description or beyond our capacity to digest. And we’ve talked about them before, but the sexual violence that we saw on October 7 is beyond anything that I’ve seen either.”

The United Nations heard testimony about allegations of sexual and gender-based violence by Hamas at a panel hosted by Israel at the UN headquarters in New York last week. Several speakers reiterated that some human rights groups such as UN Women were too slow to condemn the alleged rape and sexual violence.

Asked by Tapper why the United Nations and the international community have been so slow to respond to the allegations, Blinken said, “I think it is a question that these organizations, these countries need to ask themselves.”

House Democrats are planning to introduce a resolution condemning Hamas’ use of sexual violence and rape against Israeli women after they were dismayed by the response to the allegations from some lawmakers on the left, including Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Israeli police are interrogating suspects and compiling evidence, including video, forensics and witness testimony, to investigate accusations of rape during the attacks. Witnesses to the aftermath of the attacks say women and girls were sexually assaulted, tortured and killed.

CNN cannot independently verify individual allegations and claims. However, several first responders who attended the scenes of the October 7 attack told CNN the attacks were overwhelmingly gruesome and that some female victims were found undressed.

Hamas denied that its militants committed rape during the attacks in a statement last week on Telegram and decried what it called “the coordination of some Western media outlets with the Zionist misleading campaigns that promote unfounded lies and allegations aimed at demonizing the Palestinian resistance… .”

Organizers of the UN meeting refuted that denial by showing mounting evidence that rape occurred during the attacks on October 7, including graphic video footage of bodies, videos of Hamas fighters admitting under interrogation that rape occurred and testimony from Israeli police officers and witnesses to the attack and its aftermath. Speakers who prepared bodies for burial described evidence that militants gang raped some victims and purposely shot or mutilated victims in genital regions.

Blinken warns Israel

The top US diplomat also warned that as Israel continues its operations in southern Gaza, more needs to be done to protect civilians and provide humanitarian aid.

More than 17,000 people have been killed in the territory since October 7, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza said Saturday.

“Even as Israel has taken additional steps, for example, to designate safe areas in the south, to focus on neighborhoods, not entire cities in terms of evacuating. What we’re not seeing sufficiently is a couple of things. One, making sure that the humanitarian operators who are there – starting with the United Nations performing heroically – that there are deconfliction times, places and routes so that the humanitarians can bring the assistance that’s getting into Gaza to the people who need it,” Blinken told Tapper.

The Israel Defense Forces issued “an urgent appeal” on Saturday for civilians to evacuate from much of the main southern city of Khan Younis amid fierce fighting in the area. It is unclear how many people were aware of the instruction given the lack of communications networks and internet availability in much of Gaza.

The IDF on Sunday said that it had struck more than 250 targets in the past 24 hours, including what it called Hamas military communication sites and tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

According to Hamas, 104 mosques and three historical churches have so far been destroyed. It accused Israel of the destruction of the oldest mosque, the Great Omari, calling it a “heinous and barbaric crime.”

Blinken added that “we need to see the same kind of deconfliction time, pauses, designated routes, plural, not just one, and clarity of communication, so that people know when it is safe and where it is safe to move to get out of harm’s way before they go back home. These are the kinds of things we’re working on every single day again to make sure that that gap between intent and result is as narrow as possible.”

When pressed by Tapper on the timeline going forward and whether Israel has told the US how long they think this current phase of operations will last, Blinken said the US has discussions with Israel but wouldn’t provide any further details.

“Israel has to make these decisions,” Blinken said. “Of course everyone wants to see this campaign come to a close as quickly as possible.”

But, he noted, “when the major military operation is over. This is not over.”

“Because we have to have a durable, sustainable peace. And we have to make sure that we’re on the path to a durable sustainable peace,” Blinken said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Sam Fossum, Catherine Thorbecke, Ivana Kottasová and Annie Grayer contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live


Longtime NFL and college coach Monte Kiffin has died at the age of 84, the University of Mississipp...

Jacob Lev, CNN

Longtime NFL and college coach Monte Kiffin dies at 84

Longtime NFL and college coach Monte Kiffin has died at the age of 84, the University of Mississippi announced on Thursday.

16 hours ago

First lady Jill Biden speaks during a World War I remembrance event in the East Room of the White H...

Betsy Klein, CNN

First lady Jill Biden to lead US delegation to the Paris Olympics

First lady Dr. Jill Biden will lead the US delegation to the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Paris later this month, the White House announced Friday, cheering on America’s athletes on behalf of the Biden administration.

18 hours ago

A small pilot study detected lead in both organic and nonorganic tampons, but further research is n...

Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Tampons contain lead, arsenic and potentially toxic chemicals, studies say. Here’s what to know

Studies have now found lead, arsenic and potentially toxic chemicals such as PFAS and phthalates in tampons and other menstrual products.

1 day ago

Dollar General will improve safety protocols in stores and pay $12 million in penalties in a sweepi...

Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN

Dollar General has 48 hours to make its stores safer or it will face big fines

Dollar General will improve safety protocols in stores and pay $12 million in penalties in a sweeping settlement with the Department of Labor over the discount chain’s history of putting low-wage employees in dangerous working conditions.

1 day ago

Shelley Duvall and Robin Williams in "Popeye." (Walt Disney/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock via CNN Ne...


Shelley Duvall, star of ‘The Shining,’ dead at 75

Shelley Duvall, best known for her roles in “The Shining” and several acclaimed Robert Altman films, has died, according to reports, citing a family spokesperson and her longtime partner.

2 days ago

FILE: Shopping carts are lined up in front of a Costco store on Feb. 25, 2021, in Inglewood, Califo...

Elisabeth Buchwald

Costco membership fees are going up for the first time since 2017

Costco is raising membership fees by $5 to $65 a year in the U.S. and Canada, but the good news is your hot dog is still $1.50.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Blinken calls sexual violence inflicted by Hamas ‘beyond anything I’ve seen’