US ‘prepared’ to support humanitarian pause in effort to free hostages held by Hamas

The United States is “prepared” to support a humanitarian pause in the fighting between Israel and the militant group Hamas in an effort to free the hostages being held in Gaza, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.

ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked Sullivan on “This Week” how Israel can both eliminate Hamas and secure the release of the more than 200 hostages being held in Gaza by the group, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization. Sullivan reiterated that there are “ongoing efforts” to secure the freedom of those hostages, some believed to be Americans.

“Well, first, let me speak to the hostages because there are ongoing efforts which I can’t get into detail on television, including regional partners, including the Israelis, and we are engaged as well to try to get all of those hostages out — the American hostages and all the other hostages who are being held criminally and cruelly by Hamas,” he said.

“We are continuing to see if there are ways to make that happen,” he continued. “We are prepared to support humanitarian pauses so that hostages can get out safely, and we will keep working at that every day because the president has no higher priority than the safe return of American citizens and wants to support the return of citizens of other countries and Israelis as well.”

Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 hostages in its initial raid of Israel on Oct. 7. Since then, only four have been released — including two Americans. Israel also stepped up its ground operations in the Gaza Strip over the weekend. This has raised concerns about the safety of civilians and the safety of those being held hostage by Hamas.

Americans in Gaza are also scrambling to leave the territory as Israel escalates its bombardments of the area. However, the U.S. has said that Hamas is not letting Americans or any other foreign nationals leave the territory through the Rafah crossing, leaving them stranded in Gaza.

“Hamas has been preventing their departure and making a series of demands. I can’t go through those demands in public, but that is the subject of the discussions in the negotiations that are ongoing,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Humanitarian aid has also been scarce in Gaza, as hospitals are running low on necessary supplies to treat their patients. Aid began crossing into Gaza two weeks after the fighting broke out, but some humanitarian groups and officials have warned that the situation in Gaza could become worse without fuel.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reported that more than 8,000 people in Gaza have died since the start of the Israeli offensive earlier this month, the majority of which are women and children. More than 1,400 Israelis were also killed, mostly in the initial wave of Hamas’s attacks on Oct. 7.

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