The New York Times rows back claims of sexual violence on 7 October at Kibbutz Be'eri

The New York Times rows back claims of sexual violence on 7 October at Kibbutz Be'eri
Allegations that sexual assault took place in Kibbutz Be'eri on 7 October first aired in a New York Times investigation have been found to be untrue.
4 min read
27 March, 2024
The New York Times has come under controversy for its coverage of the Israel-Gaza war [GETTY]

A leading American publication has faced scrutiny for publishing unverified sexual violence allegations against Israeli women during the Hamas-led 7 October attack ,prompting the outlet to row back on its own story.

The New York Times published a lengthy investigation in December which detailed multiple accounts of sexual violence allegedly committed by Hamas fighters, including rape and mutilation gathered from interviews with witnesses, relatives of the victims, emergency workers and officials.

However, one allegation detailing the sexual assault of two teenagers at Kibbutz Be’eri, based on testimony from an unnamed Israeli military paramedic, has since been debunked as false following the release of a new video by the Israeli military.

In an article published on Monday titled 'Israeli Soldier’s Video Undercuts Medic’s Account of Sexual Assault', the incident is debunked by the video's footage and members of the kibbutz who said that the video proves a sexual assault against the young women did not take place.

Residents of Kibbutz Be’eri, which suffered some of the worst attacks on 7 October when 97 residents died, said that the two girls who were found dead inside their home were shot dead but not sexually assaulted.

According to the report, the video from the Israeli military depicts the bodies of two female victims with blood stains on clothing and on the floor. A third dead body is in a nearby room, the report said.

The findings, which are not the first time The New York Times has come under fire for its coverage of the war, are in contradiction to the account of the paramedic interviewed for the New York Times December article.

The testimony of the unnamed Israeli paramedic was also reported by other international news outlets, including The Associated PressThe Washington Post, and CNN.

The paramedic described seeing two women's bodies, one had "bruises by her groin" and the other "had her face flat on the ground, with pyjamas pulled to her knees, her bottom exposed and semen smeared on her back".

The paper reported that the paramedic was only authorised to speak to the press on condition that he remained anonymous because he was from an "elite unit".

But the Kibbutz community members and relatives of the two teenage victims, said the video confirmed that the girls were not sexually assaulted but just shot.

The New York Times said it presented the findings to the paramedic that raised the story, but he "declined to say whether he still stood by the account, saying he would like to put the attacks behind him".

One of the residents from the kibbutz quoted by the New York Times called the story "false" following months of thinking that the girls had been sexually assaulted before they died.

The New York Times issued an update on Monday to the December article: "Newly released video viewed by The Times showed the bodies of two teenage girls in Kibbutz Be’eri fully clothed, undercutting this account from an Israeli military paramedic who recovered bodies in multiple locations after the Oct. 7 attack".

The same conclusion was presented earlier in March in an article by The Intercept which also interviewed members of the kibbutz who said The New York Times article about the kibbutz was wrong.

Sexual assault against women and girls was central to a recent United Nations report, stating there were "reasonable grounds" to believe that sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred in multiple locations in southern Israel on 7 October.


The report, however, noted that the expert team, which included a forensic pathologist and digital and information source analysts, was not able to verify various allegations of sexual violence on 7 October, including related to Kibbutz Be’eri.

"At least two allegations of sexual violence widely repeated in the media were unfounded due to either new superseding information or inconsistency in the facts gathered," the report said.

The team also encountered challenges with some testimonies including where statements were retracted, or sources doubted their recollections or previous assertions that had appeared in the media.

Throughout the war, misinformation has been rife and there have been various instances where major international news outlets have reported unverified information which has later been found to be false.

Whether women in Israel and Gaza have been subject to sexual violence has also been tangled up in misinformation and experts attest that gathering evidence of rape is highly challenging while war is still ongoing.