Israeli woman who was held hostage by Hamas speaks out on her abduction and sexual assault in Gaza

Israeli woman who was held hostage by Hamas speaks out on her abduction and sexual assault in Gaza

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Amit Soussana has become the first Israeli woman to speak publicly about enduring what she says was a sexual assault and other forms of violence during her 55 days in captivity following the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7, according to reporting by The New York Times on Tuesday.

Abducted from her home by at least 10 men, Soussana said she was subjected to a horrifying series of events that saw her beaten and dragged into Gaza. The details of Soussana’s captivity paint a grim picture of her suffering; from being locked alone and chained by her ankle to being forced into performing sexual acts under the threat of a gun, according to The New York Times.

Soussana, a lawyer, was released in late November of 2023 as part of an exchange of hostages in Gaza who were kidnapped during the Hamas attack for Palestinian prisoners.

“Amit Soussana’s courageous testimony detailing her horrific captivity is one of many harrowing accounts from hostages held by Hamas,” the Hostages Families Forum said in a statement.

It added, “Amit is a hero, as are all hostages enduring this living hell for 172 agonizing days. We must bring these brave women and men home before it is too late.”

Soussana’s eight hours of interviews with The New York Times shed light on the psychological and physical torment she said she experienced at the hands of her captors, offering extensive details of her ordeal across several locations in Gaza, including in private homes and a subterranean tunnel.

Several days into her captivity, she said, her guard began asking about her sex life.

Soussana said she was held alone in a child’s bedroom, chained by her left ankle. Sometimes, the guard would enter, sit beside her on the bed, lift her shirt and touch her, she told The New York Times.

Soussana added that the guard repeatedly asked when her period was due. When her period ended, around Oct. 18, she tried to put him off by pretending that she was bleeding for nearly a week.

Around October 24, the guard, who called himself Muhammad, attacked her, she said.

Early that morning, she said, Muhammad unlocked her chain and left her in the bathroom. After she undressed and began washing herself in the bathtub, Muhammad returned and stood in the doorway, holding a pistol.

“He came towards me and shoved the gun at my forehead,” Soussana recalled. After hitting Soussana and forcing her to remove her towel, “Muhammad groped her, sat her on the edge of the bathtub and hit her again,” The New York Times reported, citing Soussana.

A view from inside the destroyed house of released hostage Amit Soussana, kidnapped during the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at the Kibbutz Kfar Aza in Israel on January 29, 2024. – Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters/File

Dr. Ayelet Levy Shachar, mother of 19-year-old hostage Naama Levy, who was captured on video being dragged by her hair from the back of a Jeep at gunpoint in Gaza, her sweatpants stained with blood said, “Amit’s horrifying testimony is more proof that our loved ones in Gaza endure physical, sexual, and psychological torture every single day. Each day there is like an eternity.”

She said what happened to Amit “is the same nightmare so many other hostages, women and men, are facing every day in captivity. Maybe even at this very moment. We are begging – their lives hang in the balance. Bring our daughters and all our loved ones back to us now – before it is too late”.

Earlier in March, the United Nations published a report indicating that rape and gang rape, among other acts of sexual violence, likely occurred during the October 7 Hamas attack and said there was “clear and convincing” evidence that hostages were raped while being held in Gaza, and that those currently held captive are still facing such abuse.

Hamas official Basem Naim denied the UN report of sexual assaults in an interview with CNN earlier this month.

On Tuesday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that Soussana “speaks for all those who cannot speak. She speaks for all the victims of Hamas’ despicable sexual crimes and abuse. She speaks for all women everywhere,” according to a post on his X account commenting on The New York Times’ article.

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