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US Says Hamas Did Not Want Women Hostages To Reveal Treatment

Israeli police have also been exploring evidence of sexual violence during the October 7 attack.


EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Palestinians mourn the death of loved ones following Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip on December 5, 2023, outside a hospital in Khan Yunis, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by Mahmud HAMS / AFP)

 

 

 

A US official said Monday that Hamas militants likely held back on freeing female hostages, ending a pause in Israel’s offensive, because they did not want the women to speak publicly about sexual violence.

Israel had paused its offensive in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, as part of a US- and Qatari-brokered truce deal to free around 240 hostages seized during the October 7 attacks, which Israeli authorities say killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

Under the truce, scores of Israeli and other hostages were freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Fighting resumed on Friday after the truce broke down, with at least 137 hostages still held in Gaza, according to the Israeli military.

“It seems one of the reasons they don’t want to turn women over that they’ve been holding hostage and the reason this pause fell apart is they don’t want those women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

Miller, citing sensitivities in discussing the treatment of captives, declined to give details on the treatment of the women.

But he said that the United States had “no reason to doubt” reports of sexual violence by Hamas.

“There is very little that I would put beyond Hamas when it comes to its treatment of civilians and particularly its treatment of women,” Miller said.

Israeli police have also been exploring evidence of sexual violence during the October 7 attack.

A senior police officer recently told Israel’s parliament that an inquiry has gathered more than 1,500 testimonies. Allegations include gang rape and post-mortem mutilation.

Miller said that Israel has briefed the United States “extensively” on its findings into the October 7 attack, although US officials were not on the ground making independent assessments.

“But we have seen Hamas commit atrocities both on October 7 and since October 7, and we obviously condemn those atrocities and support Israel’s actions to hold Hamas accountable for them,” Miller said.

Campaigners in Israel have derided what they see as a muted international response to gender-based violence during the attack.

Hamas in a statement Monday rejected accusations of rape and sexual violence as “unfounded lies.”

Israeli attacks since October 7 have killed nearly 15,900 people in Gaza, about 70 percent of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.