Top Biden aide: US working ‘around the clock’ to release hostages held in Gaza

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says the Biden administration is working “around the clock” to secure the release of the roughly 240 hostages being held by terrorists in Gaza and that he will be meeting again with representatives of the captives’ families later today.

As the White House highlighted in its readout from US President Joe Biden’s call yesterday with the Qatari emir, the hostages include 3-year-old toddler Abigail Edan, who is an American citizen and whose parents were killed during the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught, Sullivan says during a White House briefing.

Sullivan adds that nine Americans are currently unaccounted for, along with one US Green Card holder. He declines to give much info regarding the status of the hostages, but says the US “do[es] have information… about some of the hostages.”

“There are a substantial number of hostages who are not just alive but who could potentially be part of a hostage release,” Sullivan continues. “But I couldn’t give you a number of exactly how many Americans would be included in that. That’s something that we will have to work through as we continue these negotiations… We won’t know for certain until we actually get the release of those hostages.”

Sullivan reiterates that the US is also leading efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. “While we’ve made some progress, much more is urgently needed to alleviate suffering among the civilian population in Gaza,” he says.

The top Biden aide notes Israel’s agreement last week to implement localized humanitarian pauses in the IDF’s fighting in northern Gaza and says the US will continue discussing the implementation of additional such pauses, which will allow for additional aid to flow in, the safe passage of Palestinian civilians and assist in the release of the hostages.

“We believe pauses should not be dictated by a strict timetable,” Sullivan says. He notes that the humanitarian pauses Israel agreed to may need to extend longer than four hours and adds that the IDF too has recognized this, recently extending one of the pauses to seven hours to ensure the safe passage of civilians.

Ultimately, we’d like to see considerably longer pauses [for] days, not hours, in the context of a hostage release,” Sullivan adds.

Sullivan laments the loss of civilians in the conflict, but stresses that Israel is fighting against a terror group whose leaders have pledged to carry out additional massacres like that of October 7 and to remain in a permanent state of war with Israel until the Jewish state is eradicated.

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