The U.S. Department of State confirmed on Wednesday that at least 22 Americans have been killed since the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas unleashed a destructive bombardment and ground assault on Israel.
“We know that so far, 22 Americans lost their lives and 17 remain unaccounted for,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a news conference joined by National Security Council coordinator John Kirby. “We know that these numbers are likely to increase in the days ahead.”
The announcement comes less than 24 hours after President Joe Biden announced Tuesday night that American citizens are believed to be among the hostages taken by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
Mr. Kirby, addressing the president’s remarks during Wednesday’s briefing, said the United States has “a little bit better sense today” about the number of Americans currently held hostage by Hamas.
He did not specify how many U.S. nationals were believed to be held by Hamas, but he did point out that they are among the 17 Americans currently unaccounted for, which is a smaller figure than previously announced.
“We know that a number of those Americans are being held hostage right now by Hamas,” Mr. Kirby said. “I think we all need to steel ourselves for the very distinct possibility that these numbers will keep increasing and that we may in fact find out that more Americans are part of the hostage pool.”
The latest U.S. death toll represents an increase from a day earlier, when President Biden confirmed 14 American citizens were among those killed.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, meanwhile, told reporters during Tuesday’s news conference that the U.S. believes there are “20 or more Americans” unaccounted for, a higher number than Wednesday’s update.
“We do not know about their condition and we cannot confirm a precise number of American citizens” who are being held hostage, Mr. Sullivan said. “But I want to underscore and stress that does not mean necessarily that there are 20 or more American hostages. Just that is the number who are currently unaccounted for.”
Death Toll Israel–Gaza Crossfire
At least 1,200 Israelis have died and more than 2,700 have been wounded since Hamas launched attacks against Israel on Oct. 7, its military said. Israel has vowed swift punishment for the deadliest Palestinian terrorist attack in its 75-year history, which left corpses strewn around a music festival.
ZAKA, an emergency search and rescue service in Israel, has recovered more than 260 bodies at the Supernova Sukkot Gathering near the Gaza–Israel border where Hamas terrorists threw grenades and sprayed automatic gunfire at concertgoers. The staggering death toll at the open-air event will go down in Israeli history as the country’s worst civilian massacre.
Meanwhile, Israeli reprisal strikes on blockaded Gaza have killed at least 1,100 people and wounded 5,339, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Additionally, some 535 residential buildings had been destroyed, leaving around 250,000 homeless.
The death toll among British nationals has also risen. As of early Wednesday, 17 British people, including children, had either died or were missing in Israel, the BBC reported. It is an increase on the previous estimate of “more than 10.”
Russia’s embassy in Tel Aviv said the number of Russian citizens killed in the Israel–Hamas war has risen to four.
Marina Ryazanova, the embassy’s spokeswoman, told state-run media TASS that those “listed as dead” had dual Israeli and Russian citizenship. She also confirmed that six Russian citizens were now officially listed as missing,
“We regret to say that according to the updated data of the Israeli side … four Russian citizens, who also had Israeli citizenship, are listed as dead. We are currently looking into all circumstances,” Ms. Ryazanova said.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, meanwhile, has announced that several French children have likely been kidnapped by Hamas terrorists and are probably among the hostages taken to Gaza.
“I want to have a special thought for the French victims [in Israel] and for our missing compatriots, whose situation is extremely worrying. Among them, several children, probably kidnapped,” Ms. Borne told the French Senate on Wednesday, Reuters reported.