London rally calls for release of women being held by Hamas

Several dozen people rallied in London on Sunday to draw attention to women still being held hostage by Hamas and to the issue of sexual violence.

Demonstrators hold posters reading "UN Women, your silence is loud" along with a red paint-stained sheet reading "UNbelievable". Photo: © HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP

London (AFP): Several dozen people rallied in London on Sunday to draw attention to women still being held hostage by Hamas and to the issue of sexual violence.

According to Jerusalem deputy mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, between 17 and 20 women and girls are still being held by the Islamist group after its October 7 attack on Israel.

"All we know is that every day that they remain in captivity their condition gets worse and there's less of a chance that they'll come out," she said.

She said she's met mothers of captives who fear that after 18 weeks some may be pregnant from rapes they might have been subject to.

"We need to get them out now so that we can do something about it," she said.

Banners saying that "rape is not resistance" were waved at the rally, and some protesters wore sweatpants with stains between their legs.

The march was held near the offices of the BBC, which the organisers of the march feel hasn't done enough to cover alleged sexual violence during Hamas' rampage.

Militants also seized around 250 hostages, and Israel says 132 remain in Gaza including at least 27 believed to have been killed.

Israel's air and ground offensive in response has led to 27,365 deaths, most of them civilian, according to a latest count published Sunday by the enclave's Hamas-run health system.

Reports of rape and sexual violence have multiplied since October 7, but the lack of survivor accounts and medical evidence has made it difficult for the moment to establish a clear account.

At the start of December, Gilad Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, said Hamas used rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Hamas has rejected these accusations.