Roughly 300 Americans and their family members have left Gaza over the past several days following “intense negotiations,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said Sunday, days after President Joe Biden vowed the Americans trapped in the war zone would “be coming home.”
The Americans were released following “pretty intensive negotiations with all sides relevant,” Finer said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation, calling the ongoing operation a “major priority.”
U.S. officials believe “there are still a number of Americans inside Gaza,” Finer said, though it’s unclear how many—Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week there were about 400 U.S. citizens and their family members, totalling around 1,000 people, stuck inside of Gaza.
Americans began exiting Gaza on Wednesday, with 74 dual citizens released as of Thursday, Biden said.
Finer also said Sunday negotiations to release hostages taken by Hamas when it attacked Israel on October 7 “have taken longer than any of us would like,” but said officials “continue to believe that there is the possibility of getting a significant number of these hostages released.”
9,700. That’s the total number of Palestinians who have been killed since Hamas invaded Israel on October 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, most in the initial attack, when Hamas also took 242 hostages into Gaza.
Evacuations of injured Gaza citizens and foreign passport holders through the Rafah crossing into Egypt have been suspended since Saturday after an Israeli attack on an ambulance in Gaza it claimed was shuttling Hamas fighters, Reuters reported, citing Egyptian official sources and an unnamed U.S. State Department official who said the U.S. and Egypt were working to resume the crossings. U.S. officials have described the evacuations as a “breakthrough” in negotiations between Hamas, Israel and Egypt, but the operation has been hindered by communications issues, including downed internet service in Gaza, preventing trapped U.S. citizens from receiving State Department emails.
What To Watch For
Biden on Wednesday called for a “humanitarian pause” in Israel’s counterattacks to allow for the release of hostages, but he has stopped short of calling for a cease-fire, despite growing calls for a halt to the violence from protesters, some Arab states and more than 100 United Nations members. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday Israel would not stop its counterattacks unless the hostages were released.