Jun 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

U.S. may never know how many died in hostage rescue operation: Sullivan

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the U.S. is still working to learn how many were killed when Israel conducted a military operation to rescue four hostages being held by Hamas.

The big picture: Israeli Defense Forces and Gaza's Ministry of Health have each released dramatically different numbers of deaths and injuries related to the operation, and prompted renewed questions about the efforts Israel is taking to minimize civilian casualties.

  • Israeli Defense Forces said that the casualties from the raid were "less than 100" while the Ministry of Health announced 274 deaths.
  • Neither death toll count has been independently verified by Axios.
  • Regional leaders across the Middle East condemned Israel's operation, with Kuwait and Lebanon's foreign ministries calling it a violation of international and humanitarian law.

What they're saying: "It will take some time for us to make any kind of determination. And we may never be able to definitively determine [the death toll]," Sullivan said in an interview on ABC's "This Week."

  • Sullivan confirmed civilians were killed in the attack, calling it "tragic" and "heartbreaking."
  • "I've said before that the Palestinian people are going through hell in this war. They're caught in the crossfire. Hamas hides among civilian infrastructure, hides underground, and puts the Palestinian people in harm's way," he said.

Sullivan told CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. has not verified Hamas' claims that other hostages were killed in the Israeli operation.

  • "We have not seen that verified or confirmed. I believe that the Israelis have said they do not have any information to that effect," he said.

State of play: Israel's raid on the Nuseirat refugee camp came as negotiators are waiting for Hamas to respond to the latest ceasefire proposal brokered by Egyptian and Qatari officials.

  • Sullivan urged Hamas to take the deal, saying on CBS' "Face the Nation" that "the whole world is looking to Hamas to say yes, because for all those people, for all these months who have been calling for a ceasefire, now is the moment."
  • " There could be a ceasefire tomorrow, today even, if Hamas would say yes to the deal. So from our perspective, the world needs to continue to reinforce that message quite clearly and strongly," he said.
  • Sullivan added that it's unknown whether Israel's military operation will impact ceasefire negotiations.

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