Friday Briefing: A Pattern of Rape and Torture on Oct. 7

Israeli officials say that everywhere Hamas terrorists struck on Oct. 7 — a rave, military bases along the Gaza border and kibbutz after kibbutz — they brutalized women.

A two-month investigation by The Times established that the attacks against women were not isolated events, but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence. For months, Israeli activists have been outraged that the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, and the agency U.N. Women did not acknowledge the many accusations until weeks after the attacks.

Times reporters identified at least seven locations where Israeli women and girls appear to have been sexually assaulted or mutilated. Many of the accounts reported by my colleagues are difficult to bear, and the visual evidence is disturbing to see.

One photograph showed a woman’s corpse with dozens of nails driven into her thighs and groin. A video provided by the Israeli military showed two dead Israeli soldiers who appeared to have been shot directly in their vaginas. A witness told my colleagues that one Hamas terrorist raped one woman while another cut off her breast.

Reporting: My colleagues used video footage, photographs, GPS data from mobile phones and interviews with more than 150 people, including witnesses, medical personnel, soldiers and rape counselors to piece together the evidence.

Judicial reform: Israel’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive plan to overhaul Israel’s courts in mid-January.

A northern front? With Hezbollah’s rockets streaming into Israel from Lebanon, Israeli officials have threatened action along the border.


U.S. officials are struggling to contend with the chaos at the border with Mexico as thousands of migrants arrive every day. The spike could have repercussions for the Biden administration, which fears that it could damage the Democrats’ electoral chances.

The arrivals have once again hit record levels and are testing the capacity of law enforcement on both sides of the border to contain the explosion of illegal crossings. An expert said that this month had more migrants per day than any previous average: Last week, the number of apprehensions reached more than 10,000 a day.

“We are not equipped to deal with this,” a border patrol officer said. “It’s a humanitarian disaster.”

Migrants: Some are fleeing war in Sudan. Others, cartels in Mexico. Most are fleeing relentless violence, desperation and poverty.

A Times investigation: Audits that look for issues including migrant children in the workplace have grown into an $80 billion global industry. But they have consistently missed child labor, including at the U.S. suppliers for Oreo, Gerber and McDonald’s.

Citic Trust, one of China’s biggest finance firms, said in 2020 that its new fund was as safe as they come — because it would invest in real estate. Then the developer defaulted and the projects stalled.

My colleagues have reconstructed its unraveling, which offers a window into the broader problems of China’s property sector. What started as a housing slump is now a full-blown crisis. The budgets of local governments, which depended on real estate revenue, have been destabilized. And the shock to China’s financial system has drained its capital markets.

What’s next: China’s central government finally signaled its willingness to step in, pledging this month to “actively and prudently resolve real estate risks” and help firms to meet their “reasonable financing needs.”

Museums around the world are grappling with how to attract new audiences. The tiny Crab Museum in England has found success with a sense of humor, bringing in visitors with irreverent, wholesome dioramas that teach visitors about climate change and capitalism.

Lives lived: Jiang Ping was a foundational Chinese legal scholar whose experiences with political persecution shaped his relentless advocacy for individual rights. He died at 92.

A fake Drake/Weeknd mash-up is not a threat to our species’ culture, writes our critic Jason Farago. It’s a warning: We can’t let our imaginations shrink to machine size.

Take the growth of text-to-image generators, which have provoked fears that A.I. is coming for visual art, too.

But those images, at least to Jason, feel more like a video game than true human expression. The compositions are highly symmetrical. The figures have the waxed-fruit skin and deeply set eyes of video game characters. It’s not a direct threat; A.I. cannot innovate and cannot pass itself off as human.

The cultural threat, he argues, is deeper. Rather than worrying about whether bots can do what humans do, we should raise our expectations of what humans can do.

“It’s not in the form of some cheesy HAL-meets-Robocop fantasy of out-of-control software and killer lasers,” he says. “The threat is that we shrink ourselves to the scale of our machines’ limited capabilities; the threat is the sanding down of human thought and life to fit into ever more standardized data sets.”

Read his full essay here.