White House says it doesn’t know how many American hostages being held in Gaza

Mr Kirby said getting Americans stuck in Gaza home is ‘high’ on Joe Biden’s priority list

Graig Graziosi
Sunday 15 October 2023 16:49 BST
John Kirby pressed on military action to save Americans trapped in Gaza

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The White House said on Sunday that it was unsure how many Americans are currently trapped in Gaza, and how many may be hostages of Hamas.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby appeared on Fox News Sunday, where he discussed whether or not the US would engage militarily with the conflict playing out between Israel and Gaza and about the welfare of Americans who are still trapped in the area.

On Saturday, Israel warned that anyone in Gaza's northern city should evacuate ahead of a military advance. More than a million individuals were forced from their homes as a result.

Americans in Gaza, whether visiting or dual-citizens, were told by the US State Department that Washington had secured a deal allowing them to pass through Gaza's border with Egypt.

That deal never materialised, and Americans were left waiting by the border, while others reportedly have been taken hostage by Hamas fighters.

On Sunday, Fox News Sunday host Shannon Noelle Bream asked Mr Kirby if the US intended to deploy troops to help the stranded or kidnapped Americans.

"There's no plans or intentions to put US troops on the ground to fight in this fight between Israel and Hamas," Mr Kirby said. "We are actively trying to find out exactly where [the Americans in Gaza] are."

Mr Kirby said: "We don't even know how many [Americans are in Gaza] exactly."

"We saw a small handful we know, but there could be more than we know, it could be different groups, they could get moved around," he said.

He then insinuated that the US was taking action to locate and return Americans trapped in Gaza, but made clear that those operations could not be discussed publicly.

"I think you can understand — I hope everybody can understand — that we're going to be careful about what we say publicly about our efforts to get those hostages home," he said.

He said that the return of the hostages is "high" on the Biden administration's priority list.

"Nothing's more important to [Joe Biden] than the safety and security of Americans that are held hostage overseas, and we're not gonna stop until we get them back with their families," he said.

When pressed on whether or not he would fully rule out military intervention in the conflict, Mr Kirby said that he couldn't rule anything in or out until the administration has had time to collect and analyse more information about the conditions in Gaza.

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