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White House says Hamas is refusing to release women hostages – and urges Israel to protect civilians in Gaza after the ceasefire collapsed


  • Israeli forces said they struck 200 ‘terror’ targets Monday
  • Fighting resumed after the release of more than 100 hostages
  • Israel not prepared to ‘close the book’ on women 

The White House said Monday it was ‘gravely concerned’ about the women civilian hostages who remain captive inside Gaza, as Israel Defense Forces and Hamas continue to exchange fire. 

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.

‘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.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the administration was 'gravely concerned' about the plight of female hostages still held inside Gaza

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the administration was ‘gravely concerned’ about the plight of female hostages still held inside Gaza

His comments following new reporting from eyewitnesses about the rape of Israeli men and women during the Oct. 7 raid. 

Israel has expanded its ground operations in Gaza, and Israeli forces say they struck 200 ‘terror’ targets in the latest barrage, even as U.S. officials including Vice President Kamala Harris have issued cautions about the risk to Palestinian civilians. 

Administraiton officials continue to try to get information about the status of nine American hostages still held in Gaza. 

‘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.

SEI*182767099 Released Israeli hostages siblings Maya and Itay Regev (R) arrive to their family home in the city of Herzliya near Tel Aviv, on December 4, 2023, after spending a few days in hospital following their release from captivity by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The White House said the refusal by Hamas to release more caused an end to the humanitarian pause

SEI*182767099 Released Israeli hostages siblings Maya and Itay Regev (R) arrive to their family home in the city of Herzliya near Tel Aviv, on December 4, 2023, after spending a few days in hospital following their release from captivity by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The White House said the refusal by Hamas to release more caused an end to the humanitarian pause 

Israel continued to pound targets in Gaza after the end of the pause

Israel continued to pound targets in Gaza after the end of the pause

‘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.’

Sullivan was loathe to get into points of leverage that might move the process along.

‘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. 

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. 



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