White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Sunday the U.S. is ‘actively trying’ to locate hostages taken in Gaza and ‘won’t rule anything in or out’ regarding the American effort.
On ‘Fox News Sunday,’ host Shannon Bream pressed Kirby on whether U.S. special operations forces would step in to physically assist in hostage retrieval.
‘There’s no plans or intentions to put U.S. troops on the ground to fight in this fight between Israel and Hamas,’ Kirby said.
‘We are actively trying to find out where they are,’ Kirby said, of the Americans taken hostage. ‘We don’t even know how many exactly. A small handful we know, but there could be more than we know. They could be in different groups. They could be moved around. I think you can understand. I hope everybody can understand – we’re gonna be careful about what we say publicly about our efforts to get those hostages home. Secretary Blinken’s in the region right now traveling around. I can tell you this is high on his agenda. We’re working this literally by the hour, but we’re not going to get ahead in where we are in policy operations since we don’t have necessarily all the information that we need to try to get them home.’
In light of what sounded like a reluctance to put American forces in the Gaza Strip, Bream pressed on whether the U.S. could ever consider sending personnel to get involved.
‘Would you absolutely rule out the possibility of any kind of US forces being on the ground?’ Bream asked.
‘What I won’t do is rule anything in or out when it comes to getting our hostages home,’ Kirby said. ‘We’re working on this literally by the hour. But again, in order for you to develop specific policy options, you gotta have a lot more contextual information than is available to us right now. And we’re working at that.’
Kirby said rescuing American hostages remains high on President Biden’s priority list.
‘Nothing’s more important to him than the safety and security of Americans held hostage overseas and we’re not gonna stop until we can get them back with their families,’ he added.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Israel this week after completing a frantic six-country rush through Arab nations aimed at preventing the Israel-Hamas war from igniting a broader regional conflict. The State Department announced Blinken’s plan to travel Monday to Israel – his second visit in five days – as America’s top diplomat arrived in Cairo for talks Sunday with Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. It was the last of Blinken’s meetings with Arab leaders amid the increasing likelihood of an Israeli ground offensive into Gaza.
HERO ISRAELI K-9 UNIT CREDITED WITH RESCUE OF OVER 200 CIVILIANS DURING HAMAS TERROR ATTACK
Kirby also said Sunday that the United States is ‘worried about the potential of escalation and widening of this conflict.’
‘We don’t want to see any actor, be it a state actor like Iran or another terrorist group like Hezbollah, widening this conflict, opening up additional fronts that will distract the Israeli Defense Forces from their primary fight against Hamas,’ he said. ‘And that is why the president ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group into the eastern Mediterranean as a strong deterrent message. And that is why we also just recently announced that the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier and her escort ships will be heading that way to be available for regional deterrent operations.’
Blinken on Sunday already met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh as the Biden administration scrambles to prevent a broader regional conflict.
‘The Secretary highlighted the United States’ unwavering focus on halting terrorist attacks by Hamas, securing the release of all hostages, and preventing the conflict from spreading. The two affirmed their shared commitment to protecting civilians and to advancing stability across the Middle East and beyond,’ State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement after the meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.