BEIT SHEMESH, Israel — Tensions erupted at a press conference at the Israel Police academy Tuesday when journalists demanded more evidence than officials were willing to divulge about sexual crimes committed during the October 7 Hamas terror attack.
The briefing had been billed in advance as a revelation of additional details of the investigations, but few were, in fact, provided.
Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov “Kobi” Shabtai addressed the gathering, and played a graphic video similar to the raw footage of the Hamas attack screened last month for journalists. There were additional, disturbing scenes of terrorists shooting their victims, and celebrating at the sight of rooms filled with bodies and blood.
(Journalists were not allowed to bring smartphones into the room or to film or photograph any of the content of the briefing.)
In one video sequence, police searched in vain for survivors at the scene of the music festival. One video showed a woman’s corpse, naked from the waist down.
Shabtai said that there was even more disturbing footage and images that had not been included.
He also screened a film of interrogation videos, showing terrorists saying that they had received orders to kill and kidnap as many people as possible. One said they had been promised an apartment and $10,000 for each hostage. Another recalled the terrorists taking a selfie with a teenage girl they had captured.
One terrorist talked about murdering a family hiding jn their home’s “safe room” by putting an explosive charge on the steel-reinforced window, then lighting a fire through the resulting hole to suffocate those inside.
Shabtai then played witness testimonies of a paramedic and a survivor of the massacre at the music festival. The latter, a young woman, recalled seeing the terrorists gang raping a wounded woman — then slicing off her breasts and throwing them to one another. Another terrorist shot her in the back of the head even as he was still penetrating her, she recalled. She also said that she saw another terrorist carrying a naked woman on his shoulder, and others carrying severed heads around “like a show of strength.”
Shabtai left without answering questions, leaving journalists frustrated and demanding to know more. Some protested that much of the evidence shown on Tuesday had already been shown to the media in Israel.
Dean Ellston, international spokesman for the Israel Police, said that the priority in dealing with victims’ bodies had been to identify the victims, and then to deal with the bodies for burial in accordance with religious procedures, rather than forensic or criminal analysis.
He also noted that the fact that there was active combat at the time meant there were few resources for collecting evidence of sexual crimes in time. (Rape kits typically must collect evidence within a few days of an assault for DNA evidence to be usable.)
Mirit Ben Mior, who leads the communications office of the Israel Police, then sparred with journalists, explaining that more evidence was still being collected in preparation for indictments in Israeli courts.
“We know by the conditions of the bodies that came … we can state that there was rape, that there was sexual harassment, that there is no place for questions about these events. … There is also circumstantial evidence.”
David Katz, the head of cyber unit in Lahav 433, which is the name of the unit investigating the crimes committed on October 7, then came forward to explain that Israel had opened an official criminal case against every one of the several hundred terrorists who had been arrested during the response to the attack.
“We have no known living victims” of rape, yet identified Katz said, though he confirmed that there were multiple eyewitness testimonies. He said that the police could not share further details of the investigation.
Last month, Breitbart News interviewed an Israeli soldier who participated in the battles of October 7 who personally saw several naked female corpses around the Israeli communities that terrorists had attacked.
The Israel Police fought heavily-armed terrorists on October 7 even though the officers were armed only with pistols. Fifty-eight of them lost their lives; another officer, Rose Lubin, was later murdered in Jerusalem.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.