BOSTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday forcefully denounced the reported rape and sexual violence against Israeli girls and women by Hamas militants following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, calling on the world to condemn such conduct “without equivocation” and “without exception.”
Speaking at a campaign fundraiser in Boston, Biden noted that in recent weeks, female survivors and witnesses to the attacks have shared “horrific accounts of unimaginable cruelty.”
“Reports of women raped — repeatedly raped — and their bodies being mutilated while still alive — of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them,” Biden said. “It is appalling.”
Israel has said it is investigating several cases of sexual assault and rape from the Hamas attack on Israel. Witnesses and medical experts have said that Hamas militants committed a series of rapes and other attacks before killing the victims in the Oct. 7 attack, though the extent of the sexual violence remains unknown.
Experts have been piecing together evidence in recent weeks in a case that is complicated because there are no known victims to testify and limited forensic evidence.
Biden's comments come as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has sought to put greater focus on the sexual violence it says Hamas committed during the Oct. 7 attack that killed some 1,200 people on Israeli soil and led to another 240 being taken hostage. Some recently released hostages have shared testimonies of sexual violence and abuse during their time in Gaza.
Hamas has denied that militants committed sexual assaults.
Netanyahu railed against the lack of international response during a press conference on Tuesday evening.
“I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation — where the hell are you?” asked Netanyahu.
Israel hosted a special event at the United Nations on Monday where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and former Meta chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg were among those who criticized what they called a global failure to support women who were raped, sexually assaulted and in some cases killed.
The comments from Biden came one day after White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the militants' alleged assaults on women “reprehensible.”
Jean-Pierre, who underscored that she was speaking on behalf of the president, was responding to a question about comments made by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a California Democrat, during a CNN interview in which she responded to a question about rape by Palestinian militants by saying, “I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians, 15,000 Palestinians have been killed.” Jayapal later issued a statement clarifying that she ”unequivocally" condemns “Hamas' use of rape and sexual violence as an act of war.”
As a senator, Biden was the author of the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law in 1994. He referenced his work on the issue as a lawmaker as he spoke out against the allegations of sexual violence by Hamas.
“The world can’t just look away at what’s going on,” Biden told donors. He added, “It’s on all of us — government, international organizations, civil society and businesses — to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation. Without equivocation, without exception.”
Associated Press writers Seung Min Kim and Aamer Madhani contributed from Washington and Melanie Lidman from Jerusalem