Written by Doina Chiacco
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than 300 Americans and their family members have left the Gaza Strip, but American citizens remain in the besieged enclave and difficult negotiations are continuing on securing the release of hostages held by Hamas, a White House official said on Sunday.
Those released include US citizens, legal permanent residents and their family members. The deputy national security adviser said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Viner said that a number of Americans who want to leave are still inside Gaza as the conflict between Israel and Hamas intensifies, but he did not specify their number.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said last week that there are about 400 American citizens and their family members, a total of about 1,000 people, who want to leave.
Evacuations of wounded Gazans and holders of foreign passports through the Rafah crossing to Egypt have been suspended since Saturday, but Egyptian, American and Qatari officials said there are efforts to resume them.
The Gaza Strip has been under bombardment since gunmen from the Palestinian Hamas movement killed on October 7 what Israel says were 1,400 people and took more than 240 others to Gaza.
Fenner said that difficult negotiations are continuing on how to secure the release of hostages, including some Americans, who were seized by Hamas in the attack.
“These negotiations are taking place quietly behind the scenes. They have taken longer than any of us would like,” Viner said. “But we still believe that there is a possibility of releasing a large number of these hostages.”
President Joe Biden spoke on Wednesday of the need for a cessation of hostilities to allow the hostages to leave, and the White House said it supports a “humanitarian truce” to allow aid to be delivered to Gaza.
Health authorities in Gaza said that more than 9,770 Palestinians were killed in Israeli raids. Israel said its attacks target Hamas, not civilians, and accuses the group of using them as human shields.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Garrett Renshaw in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware; Editing by Will Dunham, David Goodman and Giles Elgood)
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