A U.S. government official has speculated that Hamas did not release all of its female hostages because it does not want them to share stories of the horrors they endured while in captivity.
State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller spoke with reporters Monday about Israel's renewed military campaign to eradicate Hamas and how its forces are taking care to avoid civilian casualties.
Amid reports that Hamas used rape as a weapon of war against Israeli women and girls, a reporter asked Miller about the Israeli government's investigation into reports of sexual violence against women during Hamas' terrorist attack.
Miller was questioned about why earlier in the press conference, he condemned the "atrocities" but didn't use the word "rape" or "sexual violence" in his answer about reports of sexual assault. He said that is "only because we haven't made an independent assessment of our own," but the administration has "seen the reports that Hamas has committed sexual violence, they have committed rape."
While the spokesperson replied that the Biden administration was briefed on the details, Miller said he could not speak on the information the Israeli government had gathered.
"We don't have people on the ground conducting such assessments," he said. "But we have seen Hamas commit atrocities both on October 7th and since October 7th, and we obviously condemn those atrocities and support Israel's actions to hold Hamas accountable for them."
Miller also asserted that the administration has no reason to doubt the validity of the reports, noting that Hamas killed innocent civilians and is still holding multiple women hostage.
"The fact that they continue to hold women hostages, the fact that they continue to hold children hostages, just the fact that it seems one of the reasons they don't want to turn women over 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," Miller stated.
"There is very little that I would put beyond Hamas when it comes to its treatment of civilians, and particularly its treatment of women," he added.
Israel's negotiations with Hamas to extend a ceasefire ended last Friday after the terror group refused to release the remaining Israeli women it's holding hostage, offering to set elderly men free instead. Israeli officials believe that Hamas is still holding at least 18 women captive, according to a Tuesday Axios report.
Hamas carried out a surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, slaughtering 1,200 people, injuring thousands of others, and seizing around 240 civilians as hostages. As the reporter noted in a question to Miller, the Israeli government has collected more than 1,500 testimonies from people who witnessed Hamas raping and sexually assaulting women on that day.
One eyewitness, Yoni Saadon, 39, described to The Sunday Times how he saw around 10 Hamas fighters beating and raping a woman. Saadon was an attendee at the Supernova Music Festival, where Hamas massacred over 300 people and took others captive.
Saadon said that the woman whose rape he witnessed had the "face of an angel," and she screamed at the terrorists to just kill her. The survivor, who is a father of four, said that the woman could have been one of his daughters.
The man had been hiding under the festival stage when he witnessed Hamas members murder a young woman. He pulled her body over to him and smeared her blood on his face to make it appear to the terrorists that he was already dead.
"I will never forget her face. Every night I wake to it and apologize to her, saying, 'I'm sorry,'" he said.
Later, when Saadon was hiding in the bushes, he saw two Hamas fighters sexually assaulting a woman they had grabbed near a car. The woman kept fighting them as they tried to remove her clothes, and, according to Saadon, one of the terrorists eventually beheaded her with a shovel.
Shari, a Rabbinate corps member of the Israel Defense Forces responsible for preparing bodies for burial, told The Daily Mail in October about the evidence of Hamas' mass rape of women, children and the elderly. Many of the corpses, according to Shari, had their pelvises broken, something that she noted is very difficult to do.