The White House has accused Hamas terrorists of failing to release the women civilian hostages after the ceasefire collapsed, as Israel Defense Forces and Hamas continue to exchange fire in Gaza.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan emphasized the plight of civilian women seized during the Hamas October 7 raid.
There are also Israeli military women being held captive.
He was asked during the White House briefing about Hamas’ unwillingness to release the balance of civilian women being held in Gaza, following the breakdown of a seven-day cease fire that led to the release of more than 100 hostages, out of a total of about 240 seized during the assault.
Plight of civilian women seized during the Hamas October 7 raid
‘I’m not going to speculate on that, only to say that they haven’t done it, and we’re gravely concerned about that. But I’m not going to speculate as to their reasoning,’ Sullivan told reporters.
‘Look, the basic bottom line when it comes to where we are in the hostage negotiations, is that the first phase of the hostage negotiation was about the release of women and children,’ said Sullivan, who has been involved the strategy.
‘Hamas continues to hold women and civilian women and will not release them. And Israel is not prepared to close the book on those women or to give them up, so Israel is insisting that Hamas follow through on the release of those women,’ he said.
‘And then Israel has said if Hamas is prepared to follow through on that, Israel is absolutely prepared to discuss additional categories of hostages, civilian men, the wounded and ultimately all of the hostages, the idea of soldiers being held.’
‘The easiest, most straightforward way to get back to it would be for Hamas, to be held accountable for not following through on it.
‘But then we also have to think about how we get all of our American hostages. out and we are giving thought to that as well.
‘And, you know, handicapping forms of leverage or precise strategies for how we go about that is something I will refrain from doing I would just say that we are thinking through, both in concert with Israel and then just as a country with our own citizens being held, what tools we have at our disposal to be able to get them on.’
Sullivan said it was the ‘refusal by Hamas’ that ’caused the end of the hostage agreement, and therefore the end of the pause in hostilities.
Statement from Israel officials
Israeli officials said the pause broke down after Hamas refused to produce a list of another 10 female hostages for release, according to the Times of Israel.
Sullivan also talked about protecting ‘safe areas,’ as Israeli forces told Gaza residents where to go amid a flurry of attacks.
‘They have also indicated that there are areas where there will be “no-strike” zones, and in those zones, we do expect Israel to follow through on not striking,’ he said, in a caution to the U.S. ally.
Israel has expanded its ground operations in Gaza, and Israeli forces say they struck 200 ‘terror’ targets in the latest barrage.