The State Department said Monday that Hamas isn't freeing more women hostages because it does not want them to "talk about what happened to them" in captivity.
"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," said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller at a briefing. "Certainly, 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 had received questions regarding reports of sexual violence on the part of Hamas during the Oct. 7 attacks. He said that, while the department is not conducting its own investigation, "we have no reason at all to doubt those reports."
One reporter pressed Miller in the briefing on whether the department knew for a fact that Hamas was keeping the women hostage because the terror group did not want them to reveal their experiences in captivity. Miller then backtracked and said he was "not able to speak with a definitive assessment that that is the case," but he added that the department would like to see Hamas release the hostages "so they could talk about whatever treatment or mistreatment they had undergone."
"The humanitarian pause which resulted in a release of hostages was negotiated in some very clear terms," Miller said. "And that was that children and women would be the first priority to be released. Near the end of that pause, last Wednesday, Thursday, when we were getting towards the end, Hamas was still holding on to women that should have been the next to be released."
"They refused to release them. They broke the deal—came up with excuses why," he continued. "Ultimately, I don't think any of those excuses were credible, and I shouldn't get into any of them here, but, certainly, one of the reasons that a number of people believe they refused to release them is they didn't want people to hear what those women would have to say publicly. I won't say 'fact' because I don't know it for a fact."
Families of many of the hostages whom Hamas did release have recounted the mistreatment their relatives experienced while in captivity. The aunt of a 12-year-old hostage whom Hamas captured on Oct. 7 said the terrorists beat her nephew and forced him to watch videos of the attacks. The uncle of two hostages, brothers aged 12 and 16, said last week that the group used a hot motorcycle exhaust to brand child hostages.