National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Sunday that he would not necessarily rule out U.S. troops being deployed on the ground to free hostages caught in the Israel-Hamas war, while noting there is currently no plans to do so.
Asked on “Fox News Sunday” if he would “absolutely rule out” the possibility of any kind of U.S. forces being on the ground, Kirby said, “What I won’t do is rule anything in or out when it comes to getting our hostages home.”
“We’re working on this literally by the hour but again, in order for you to develop specific policy options, you got to have a lot more contextual information than is available to use right now and we’re working at that,” Kirby said.
Hamas is believed to be holding more than 100 people hostage, including civilians, Israeli soldiers and an unknown number of Americans. The State Department said Saturday 15 American citizens remain unaccounted for, though U.S. officials have emphasized this does not mean they all are being held hostage.
“There’s no plans or intentions to put U.S. troops on the ground to fight in this fight between Israel and Hamas,” Kirby told Fox’s Shannon Bream.
When asked if the U.S. would put troops on the ground specifically to retrieve Americans, Kirby pointed to the uncertainty over the details of their location and number of hostages.
“We are actively trying to find out exactly where they are, I mean, Shannon, we don’t even know how many exactly. We saw a small handful, we know there could be more than we know that could be in different groups, it could be moved around,” Kirby said, noting the U.S. need to be “careful” about its public discussions of efforts to get hostages home.
Fighting in Israel and Gaza has claimed over 3,600 lives — mostly civilians — from both sides, with thousands more injured since militant group Hamas’s multi-pronged surprise attack on Oct. 7. The State Department on Saturday upped confirmed American casualties to 27.
Israeli forces ratcheted up a major counteroffensive against the militant group shortly after last week’s attack, which left hundreds of Israeli’s dead. Israel has since bombarded the Gaza Strip with air strikes, and warned more than 1 million people there to evacuate in anticipation of a ground attack. The World Health Organization condemned the forced evacuations, arguing it will worsen the humanitarian catastrophe.
Hamas forces vowed last week to execute Israeli hostages if Israel continues to launch airstrikes into the region. Hamas claimed 13 hostages were killed in Israeli airstrikes last Friday.
In Gaza, an estimated 2,329 Palestinians have died and 9,042 were injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Authorities in Israel said over 1,300 Israelis have died in the conflict, the vast majority of them civilians killed in Hamas’s deadly surprise attack last weekend, according to The Associated Press (AP.).