Israeli forensic teams describe signs of torture, abuse

Aftermath of an attack on the Nova Festival by Hamas gunmen from Gaza near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel

RAMLA, Israel (Reuters) - Military forensic teams in Israel have examined bodies of victims of last week's Hamas attack on communities around the Gaza Strip and found multiple signs of torture, rape and other atrocities, officers said on Saturday.

Around 1,300 bodies have been brought to an army base in Ramla in central Israel where forensic checks to determine the identity of the dead and the circumstances of their death are carried out by specialist teams.

Around 90% of the military dead have been identified and teams are half way through identifying civilians, said Rabbi Israel Weiss, former army chief rabbi, one of the officials overseeing the identification of the dead. He said many bodies showed signs of torture as well as rape.

"We've seen dismembered bodies with their arms and feet chopped off, people that were beheaded, a child that was beheaded," a reserve warrant officer identified only by her first name of Avigayil told reporters.

She said multiple cases of rape were found by forensic examination of the bodies, which have been stored in refrigerated containers.

"We do the identification with all the means that we have," said a military dentist, identified as Captain Maayan. "We see them in severe stages of abuse. We see gunshots and we see signs that are purely torture."

The military personnel overseeing the identification process didn't present any forensic evidence in the form of pictures or medical records.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, has denied accusations of abuse.

Hundreds of Hamas gunmen, some on motorcycles, broke through barriers around Gaza in the early hours of Oct. 7 and tore through nearby communities, attacking a large outdoor dance party as well homes and military bases and abducting more than 120 Israelis and foreigners.

The assault caused profound shock in Israel due to both the unprecedented number of dead from a single day as well as the graphic footage that has emerged from the towns and kibbutzes that were overrun.

In response, Israeli jets and artillery have bombarded the Gaza Strip for days, killing more than 2,200 Palestinians and destroying thousands of buildings ahead of an expected ground invasion.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has compared Hamas to Islamic State, which gained worldwide notoriety for its campaign of public beheadings in countries like Syria and Iraq.

(This story has been refiled to correct the media identifier and also edit details in paragraph 10)

(Reporting by Peter Hirschberg; Editing by Daniel Wallis)