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Rescuing US hostages in Gaza is highest priority, Biden admin says

Rescuing American hostages in Gaza is the “highest priority” for the Biden administration, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan underscored Sunday.

But Sullivan was coy about whether the administration is considering dispatching Navy Seals to conduct rescue operations, and noted a complication is that the US doesn’t know where many of the hostages are located.

“The president has been very clear that he has no higher priority than getting Americans back safe,” Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union,” when pressed by moderator Jake Tapper about how Israel is “bombing the crap out Gaza.”

“We have to continue to refine our understanding of where they are,” he continued. “We know there are 15 unaccounted for Americans, but we cannot confirm the precise number of American hostages being held by Hamas at this time.”

A hypothetical prisoner swap deal with Hamas, which is a designated terrorist group by the US, is not currently in the works, Sullivan indicated.

“We have not looked at that. We have not heard from them something like that. That’s not something that is currently under active discussion and has not been proposed,” he said.

“Biden has shown over the course of the past few years, that he will make hard decisions to get American hostages home. In this case, our focus is on working through those third country channels and I’ll leave it at that for now.”

At least 29 Americans have died since Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel last week, and 15 are unaccounted for, according to the US State Department.

More than 1,300 Israelis and 2,329 Palestinians have been killed in the bloody war, which erupted on Oct. 7, according to local authorities.

Tapper later grilled Sullivan about why the administration hadn’t spoken out about Israel nixing power and supplies to Gaza, comparing it to the rhetoric about condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin for cutting off critical supplies to Ukraine.

“Israel is not Russia,” Sullivan pushed back, while adding that those in Gaza “deserve, as I said before, access to water and medicine and food. And we are working actively to ensure that that happens.”

Follow along with The Post’s live blog for the latest on Hamas’ attack on Israel

“I have been in touch with my Israeli counterparts just within the last hour, who report to me that they have, in fact, turned the water pipe back on in southern Gaza,” he added.

Follow along with The Post’s live blog for the latest on Hamas’ attack on Israel

Sullivan further stated that the US is collaborating with Israel to ensure that “innocent Palestinians get access to those basic necessities and are protected from bombardment.”

Israel has urged Palestinians to flee Gaza City ahead of a possible ground invasion that has triggered threats from Iran.

“The critical thing from our perspective is that there be safe places for civilians to go that will not be subject to military bombardment, where they can be safe physically, and where they can have access to the essential food, water, medicine, shelter,” Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


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