White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby ruled out the possibility of U.S. troops becoming involved in the ongoing fighting between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian terrorists on Thursday, saying the Israeli side does not want its U.S. allies to wade into the conflict.
“There is no intention, no plan, and frankly, no desire by the Israelis for U.S. combat troops to be involved in this conflict,” Mr. Kirby said during a White House press conference on Thursday.
Palestinian terrorists, led by Hamas, began firing rockets from Gaza on Oct. 7. Palestinian gunmen simultaneously breached the Gaza-Israel barrier in multiple locations to carry out a ground attack, killing more than 1,000 people and wounding hundreds more. Hamas forces appear to have taken hundreds more people hostage.
Mr. Kirby confirmed at least 27 U.S. citizens were among those killed in the Hamas attacks, and another 14 Americans remained unaccounted for as of Thursday.
While there are no plans to directly involve U.S. forces in the ongoing fighting, the U.S. military has ordered some of its assets to reposition to the region. The Navy has ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to reposition to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, placing the carrier’s airwing and supporting guided missile cruisers and destroyers closer to Israel’s shoreline. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has also ordered the U.S. Air Force to deploy additional F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons to bases in the region.
The U.S. Department of Defense has announced it is flowing additional military supplies to the IDF and replenishing Israel’s stock of Iron Dome missile interceptors, which are employed to stop incoming rocket attacks.
At the White House press briefing on Thursday, Mr. Kirby said the U.S. is also arranging charter flights to help evacuate U.S. citizens and their families from Israel. Mr. Kirby also referred U.S. citizens to a U.S. State Department website to fill out an intake form, which will help the department gauge the resources needed to assist those seeking evacuation assistance abroad.
Americans Taken Hostage
Some U.S. citizens are believed to be among the people taken hostage by Palestinian militants. Mr. Kirby reiterated that the Biden administration believes there are “less than a handful” of Americans taken hostage in Gaza and indicated the U.S. government has few details about their condition.
With the decision not to commit U.S. troops to the conflict, the United States has no immediate plans to attempt to rescue American hostages. Those hostages may instead see help from Israeli forces.
“The Israelis have made it very clear that they don’t want foreign troops on their soil, that they want to prosecute these [military] operations on their own, and they have every right to want to do that,” Mr. Kirby said. “We have some experts that were already in the country, in part providing advice and counsel on hostage recovery.”
In an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program on Thursday, White House Deputy National Security Adviser John Finer also signaled no plans to directly involve U.S. troops in any efforts to rescue American hostages.
“There is an Intelligence challenge: How do you actually find these people, and then once you do find them, if you do find them, how do you actually locate them, either negotiate their release or try operationally to remove them,” Mr. Finer told MSNBC. “What I can say is, at this point, we are not contemplating U.S. boots on the ground involved in that mission. What we have done is sent experts from across our government to the region to consult and advise with their Israeli counterparts to make sure they find the best way to go about getting these people home.”