The United States and Israel are not sure about how many Hamas hostages that were taken last month “are still alive,” said White House national adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday.
During an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week,” Mr. Sullivan said the United States is still working to release nine American citizens and one U.S. green-card holder who are suspected to have been captured by the State Department-designated terrorist group.
“We do not know the precise number of hostages. We know the number of missing, and that’s the number the Israelis have given, but we don’t know how many of those are still alive,” he told ABC. “As far as Americans are concerned, there are nine missing American citizens as well as a missing legal permanent resident—a green card holder.”
Hamas kidnapped a number of civilians during a series of attacks in Southern Israel that left at least 1,400 people, most of them civilians, dead on Oct. 7. Israeli officials have said that more than 200 civilians were captured by the group, saying that they are likely being kept in a series of tunnels underneath Gaza used by Hamas.
Since the attack, Israeli officials have vowed to destroy Hamas and launched a major bombing campaign on the group in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that Gaza would be demilitarized and that Israel would retain the ability to enter Gaza freely to hunt down terrorists. He also rejected the idea that the Palestinian Authority, which currently administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would at some stage regain control of Gaza. Hamas drove the PA’s forces out of Gaza in a week of street battles in 2007.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated the United States opposes an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinian government in both Gaza and the West Bank as a step toward a Palestinian state. Even before the war, Mr. Netanyahu’s government was staunchly opposed to Palestinian statehood.
On Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu said there might be a deal with Hamas to release some hostages but declined to elaborate on the specifics. “I think the less I say about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materializes,” Mr. Netanyahu told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
“We heard that there was an impending deal of this kind or of that kind and then we learned that it was all hokum. But the minute we started the ground operation that began to change,” he added, while saying that “there could be” a deal in place in the future.
Mr. Netanyahu reiterated to NBC News on Sunday that a “different authority” must be put in place to govern Gaza after the conflict.
When asked about whether Israel can win the conflict with little support, he replied: “We will win this war, because we have no other choice.”
“There is no life for us, there’s no future for us and our neighbors, if we allow the axis of terror, led by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis and their minions to dominate,” he added, making reference to groups based in Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen respectively.
Last week, meanwhile, President Joe Biden confirmed he asked Mr. Netanyahu to institute the daily pauses during an earlier call and said he had also asked the Israelis for a pause of at least three days to allow for hostage negotiations. “Yes,” the president said, when asked whether he had asked Israel for a three-day pause. “I’ve asked for even a longer pause for some of them.”
He added there was “no possibility” of a formal cease-fire at the moment, and said it had “taken a little longer” than he hoped for Israel to agree to the humanitarian pauses.
Similar short-term pauses have occurred over the past several days as tens of thousands of civilians have fled southward, but Thursday’s announcement appeared to be an effort to formalize and expand the process, as the U.S. has pressed Israelis to take greater steps to protect civilians in Gaza.
White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters last week that pauses could be useful for “getting all 239 hostages back with their families, to include the less than 10 Americans that we know are being held. So if we can get all the hostages out, that’s a nice finite goal.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times