The State Department says the U.S. suspects one reason Hamas is refusing to release its remaining female hostages is to prevent them from revealing the horrors they experienced in captivity.
Israeli officials believe Hamas still has roughly 18 women in custody, most of whom were kidnapped from an Oct. 7 music festival near the Gaza border, according to Axios. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says that Hamas' refusal to release the women led to the collapse of the cease-fire on Friday.
"It seems that 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 that they don't want these women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody," Miller said during a Monday press briefing.
The statement comes amid heightened tensions regarding Hamas' brutal treatment of women during and after its Oct. 7 massacre. Israel has documented extensive instances of rape and sexual assault and has called on the United Nations to take action.
A State Department official says the U.S. suspects one reason Hamas is refusing to release its remaining female hostages is to prevent them from revealing the horrors they experienced in captivity. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)
During a meeting at the U.N. in Geneva last week, Israeli officials attempted to raise awareness of the alleged sexual violence against women and urged the international body – which often condemns global injustices and human rights violations – not to keep quiet about the issue.
"Among the war crimes and the crimes against humanity that Hamas committed on Oct. 7 were also sexual crimes, sexual assaults, rapes, that were part, that were a systematic part of their attack, of the massacre, and we are expecting a strong condemnation," said Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, an associate professor at Bar-Ilan University who spoke at the event. "We expected recognition of that. We expected a clear and loud statement that says that there is no justification for using the bodies of women as a weapon of war. None of this came up until now."
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says Hamas still has roughly 18 women in custody, most of whom were kidnapped from an Oct. 7 music festival near the Gaza border. (Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)
The official UN Women X account faced heavy criticism when it finally condemned the Oct. 7 attack on Friday, roughly two months later.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., faced similar backlash this week when she joined CNN on Sunday for an interview and was asked about the silence from progressive women's groups on Hamas' use of rape as a weapon of war. Jayapal, who chairs the left-wing Congressional Progressive Caucus, claimed she did condemn Hamas' treatment of women specifically, but argued that "we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians."
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., faced backlash this week when she joined CNN on Sunday for an interview and was asked about the silence from progressive women's groups on Hamas' use of rape as a weapon of war. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Israel says roughly 137 hostages remain in Gaza, though the U.S. has repeatedly warned that there is no way to know how many of that number are still alive.
Fox News' Lawrence Richard contributed to this report
Anders Hagstrom is a reporter with Fox News Digital covering national politics and major breaking news events. Send tips to