The US Justice Department is investigating the deaths and kidnappings of Americans during the devastating Hamas attack against Israel on October 7, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday.
“Hamas murdered more than 30 Americans and kidnapped more” during the attack, Garland said. “We are investigating those heinous crimes and we will hold those people accountable.”
According to CNN, the White House believes there is one American woman and seven men still being held hostage in Gaza. Four people holding US citizenship have been released by Hamas since the start of the war.
Garland’s comments came as he announced a war crimes case filed against four Russian soldiers accused of torturing an American during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The charges are the first filed under a nearly 30-year-old law that allows US prosecutors to charge people over the inhumane treatment of Americans during war.
“As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice,” Garland said. “The Justice Department will work for as long as it takes to pursue accountability and justice for Russia’s war of aggression.”
Israel has been waging war on Hamas with a vow to topple its regime in the Gaza Strip, after thousands of terrorists stormed into southern Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking at least 240 hostages into Gaza.
Under a weeklong truce deal that expired on Friday, 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity in Gaza: 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino. Earlier, four hostages were released and one was rescued, and at least three bodies have been recovered.
Israel says that Hamas had an opportunity to extend the pause in fighting but refused to release all the women held, as the deal entailed. It is believed that 138 hostages remain in Gaza, including some 20 women and two young children.
US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller suggested on Monday that Hamas is holding onto the hostages because it does not want them to testify about the sexual abuse they experienced in captivity.
“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 said in response to a question from a reporter about growing evidence of Hamas rape and sexual abuse on October 7.