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Protesters outside United Nations highlight sex assaults of women during Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel

Protesters outside U.N highlight sex assaults of women during Hamas attack
Protesters outside U.N highlight sex assaults of women during Hamas attack 01:49

NEW YORK -- A large protest outside the United Nations Headquarters on Monday highlighted the sex assaults of women during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was one of many voices speaking at the special session called "Hear our Voices - Sexual and Gender-based Violence in the October 7th Hamas Terror Attack." 

"The United Nations must denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization that uses rape as a weapon of war," said Gillibrand. 

Before the session, hundreds rallied across from the U.N., including Yara Shiran, whose 24-year-old cousin Danielle Waldman was murdered at the Nova music festival. 

"For nearly two months, there has not been a word and we decided that it's time to show support for women who've been killed, who can't speak for themselves," said Shiran, who lives in Manhattan

The rally came after the U.N. secretary general and the organization U.N. Women released a statement on the matter late last week. 

On Wednesday, the U.N. secretary general posted, "There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted." 

Then late Friday night, U.N. Women said in part, "We unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas ... We are alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities. This is why we have called for all accounts ... to be duly investigated and prosecuted." 

"After eight weeks, the U.N. Women put a few, like one paragraph in a whole message in the middle, remarking, just saying there was this such a thing and acknowledging it, but it's way too little and too late and we expect much more," said Shany Ganot-Lubaton, with Hostages and Missing Families Forum NY

We asked a rep for the U.N. secretary general why there was a delay in him addressing the matter. We were only told senior U.N. officials, including those from his staff, were at Monday's special session. 

A spokesperson for U.N. Women said representatives were at the special session, adding in part: 

"Within days of the horrific attacks, UN Women began offering concrete support to the UN Commission of Inquiry which is investigating these matters. We believe a full investigation is essential, so that perpetrators at all sides can be held accountable and justice can be served. Some weeks ago, UN Women met with Israeli women's organizations to hear about their work to carry out investigation of this painful situation, and offered them our support. We appreciate the difficulty of such work and the toll it takes on those undertaking it, and they have our appreciation and respect. 

We recognize that UN procedures can appear to be slow-moving. This is particularly true for public statements on conflict-related sexual violence, which require thorough investigation by the Commission of Inquiry (COI). This approach has been a standard practice in handling most past conflicts as well. We welcome that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten has activated the UN Action network to proactively share UN-sourced and verified information on incidents, patterns, and trends of conflict-related sexual violence to aid all investigations."

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