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Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and others issue a global call to action to denounce sexual violence at UN Summit

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Sheryl Sandberg, the former Meta COO, joined other luminaries at a UN summit and denounced Hamas' gender-based violence in the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • Sheryl Sandberg condemned the violence perpetrated against women during Hamas' terrorist attack on October 7 and called on the world to do the same. 
  • Sandberg was joined by a host of luminaries, including Hillary Clinton and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, for a UN summit on gender-based violence.
  • Roughly 1,200 people were killed in the attack, which became the catalyst for Israel's war in Gaza. 

Former tech executive and women's advocate Sheryl Sandberg issued a global call to action to end rape as a weapon of war during a a summit on sexual violence at the United Nations Monday — and pleaded for the world not to turn away from the atrocities committed against women by Hamas in the October 7 terror attacks.

"Silence is complicity, and in the face of terror, we will not be quiet," Sandberg said in a speech at "Hear our Voices: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the October 7 Hamas Terror Attack," a UN event convened in New York City. "That is why we are all here today. To speak about unspeakable acts."

The former Meta COO added: "This goes beyond politics. If we can't agree that rape is wrong, then we have accepted the unacceptable. Then the question will be, not what is happening in the Middle East, but what is happening to our humanity."

The Lean In founder joined a host of luminaries from the worlds of diplomacy, politics, and the arts at Monday's summit, where they called on the public to denounce the gender-based violence that Hamas perpetrated during its surprise attack and hold the terrorist organization accountable for the massacre of civilians.

In front of an audience that included actors Debra Messing and Julianna Margulies, Sandberg praised the recent progress that the global community had made in recognizing, prosecuting, and reducing wartime rape. In previous conflicts, she said, women's bodies had been considered "the spoils of war."

Tom Berthal (left), Sheryl Sandberg, Amb. Gilad Erdan and Debra Messing attend the summit on sexual violence against women in wartime at the United Nations on Dec. 4, 2023.
Tom Berthal (left), Sheryl Sandberg, Amb. Gilad Erdan and Debra Messing attend the summit on sexual violence against women in wartime at the United Nations on Dec. 4, 2023.

Shazar Azran

"That is why this moment is so critical," Sandberg said. "We have come so far in establishing that rape is a crime against humanity. And we have come so far in believing survivors of sexual assault in so many situations. That's why the silence on these moral crimes is dangerous. It threatens to undo decades of progress."

Hamas' terror attack on Israel left roughly 1,200 people dead, according to Israeli officials. Following the attacks, the Israeli military launched a barrage of airstrikes and a ground incursion into Gaza, killing more than 15,000 Palestinians — the vast majority of them civilians — so far, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

"As a global community, we must respond to weaponized sexual violence, where ever it happens, with absolute condemnation," Hillary Rodham Clinton said in videotaped remarks after she spent Monday at the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai. "There can be no justifications and no excuses. Rape as a weapon of war is a crime against humanity."

Mourners grieve for Liel Hetzroni , 12-years-old, and her aunt, Ila (Illios) Hetzroni who were killed at kibbutz Be'eri on October 7th by Hamas, during a funeral and farewell-ceremony at Kibbutz Revivim on November 15, 2023 in Revivim, Israel.
Mourners grieve for Liel Hetzroni , 12-years-old, and her aunt, Ila (Illios) Hetzroni who were killed at kibbutz Be'eri on October 7th by Hamas, during a funeral and farewell-ceremony at Kibbutz Revivim on November 15, 2023 in Revivim, Israel.

Alexi J. Rosenfeld

Attendees heard from first responders, police, and military personnel, who described the acts of terrorism that they witnessed on October 7 and in the following days. They recalled encountering scores of female corpses, some whose pants were pulled down, others who had been shot in their genitals or had breasts cut off. They described bodies that were defiled after death and burned beyond recognition, as well as one young girl whose pelvis had been broken.

Simcha Greiniman, a volunteer with the nonprofit ZAKA Search and Rescue organization, said he was dispatched to remove some of the bodies in the aftermath of the attacks.

"I saw in front of my eyes, a woman — she was naked," a visibly shaken Greiniman recalled. "She had nails and different objects in her female organs. Her body was brutal, in a way that we could not identify her. From her head to her toes. She was abused in a way we could not understand and we could not deal with."

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who said she had viewed raw footage from the attack, said she almost choked when she learned that many human rights organizations — including UN Women — failed to immediately condemn Hamas' attack. She said the silence underscores the idea that "their bodies are not worth defending."

"The world must do more," Gillibrand said. "It must demand accountability. The United Nations must denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization."

UN Women issued a statement in December condemning the attacks and expressing alarm at the "numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks." In a speech three weeks after the violence erupted, UN Women executive director Sima Bahous said that "every act of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, is unequivocally condemned, irrespective of the nationality, identity, race, or religion of the victims."

Israel's Ambassador Gilad Erdan addresses the UN Summit on the gender-based violence in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan addresses the UN Summit on the gender-based violence in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.

Shazar Azran

The summit's host, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, said that despite the lack of action from the international community, the voices of the murdered Israeli women would still be heard.

"If the UN chooses to remain silent in the face of evil, that does not mean the world will follow suit," Erdan said. "If the top-down approach is broken, the bottom-up approach will prevail. The world will know the truth. We know the truth and we will make the truth heard."

Read the original article on Business Insider