Attorney General Merrick Garland made the comments on Wednesday when asked if the department was looking into “war crimes” when it came to actions by Hamas.
The question came after he announced a war crimes case filed against four Russian soldiers accused of torturing an American during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Hamas murdered more than 30 Americans and kidnapped more during their terrorist attack on Oct. 7,” Garland said in comments to reporters. “We are investigating those heinous crimes and we will hold those people accountable.”
The coordinated attacks by Hamas and other militants at multiple sites in Israel on Oct. 7 resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, while about 240 men, women and children were taken hostage.
In the two months since the attack, Israeli bombardment and intense combat with Hamas militants have left more than 16,200 people in Gaza — mostly women and children — dead, The Associated Press reports. More than 42,000 people have also been wounded, according to the territory’s health ministry — which is controlled by Hamas.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters at the same press conference alongside Garland that before October’s attack, the terrorism landscape was elevated but following the actions by Hamas and the ensuing conflict, “it’s gone up to a whole other level.”
As the conflict continues, efforts are being made by various politicians and world leaders to try and stop the hostilities.
A week-long humanitarian truce ended last Friday, but Arab nations at the UN are looking into a proposed Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.
However, it is not likely to pass as the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, has veto power and has not supported a ceasefire in the past. Its deputy ambassador said Tuesday the UNSC’s role was to “not get in the way of this important diplomacy going on the ground … because we have seen some results, although not as great results as we want to see,” noting a resolution at this time would “not be useful.”
— with files from The Associated Press