White House ‘pleased’ by hostage rescue, laments Palestinian civilians killed during op; says US has never told Israel not to tackle Hamas in Rafah

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

Louis Har (C) hugs a loved one as Fernando Marman looks on at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024. (Screen grab)
Louis Har (C) hugs a loved one as Fernando Marman looks on at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024. (Screen grab)

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says the US is “pleased” to have learned about last night’s successful Israeli military operation to rescue two hostages being held by Hamas terrorists in Rafah.

Kirby says US President Joe Biden will continue working to secure the release of the remaining 134 hostages.

The White House spokesman notes reports that dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed in IDF bombings that took place during the operation. “I can’t confirm those reports, but as we have said many times, the proper number of civilian casualties is zero,” Kirby adds.

Taking questions at the White House daily press briefing, Kirby also stresses that the US “never said that they can’t go into Rafah to remove Hamas. Hamas remains a viable threat to the Israeli people. And the Israelis and the IDF, absolutely, are going to continue operations against their leadership and their infrastructure, as they should. We don’t want to see another October 7th.”

Rather, Kirby says, “What we’ve said is we don’t believe that it’s advisable to go in in a major way in Rafah without a proper, executable, effective, and credible plan for the safety of the more than a million Palestinians that are taking refuge in Rafah.  They’ve left the north, and they certainly went south out of Khan Yunis to try to get out of the fighting. So, Israel has an obligation to make sure that they can protect them.”

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