In light of ongoing Israeli military operations following a recent terrorist attack, a senior aide to President Joe Biden has highlighted the challenges posed by Hamas in facilitating the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the Gaza Strip to Egypt.
CNN’s Jake Tapper raised questions with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan regarding the Biden administration’s efforts to persuade Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to open the border for the safe exit of Americans from the embattled Gaza Strip. Sullivan clarified, “We have told President Sisi to open the border to let Americans out. The situation there at the crossing is actually more complicated. The Egyptians have in fact agreed to allow Americans to depart, to get safe passage through the Rafah Crossing.” He went on to say, “the Israelis agreed to ensure that the area around there would be safe as far as they were able to do so. The question — when we tried to move a group yesterday was actually Hamas taking steps to try and stop that from happening.”
Sullivan tells Tapper that Hamas is preventing American citizens from crossing from the Gaza Strip into Egypt pic.twitter.com/UjNYHFXQwr
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 15, 2023
It is estimated that around 500-600 American citizens currently reside in the Gaza Strip, and some have reported difficulties in their attempts to leave, as reported by The New York Times. Simultaneously, Israel’s military has been urging civilians in northern Gaza to evacuate in anticipation of a potential ground offensive, even though Hamas has reportedly advised people to disregard these warnings. Sullivan underscored the Biden administration’s dedication to expediting the passage of American citizens through the border crossing.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is presently in Egypt, engaged in discussions with the Egyptian president. His top priority is to facilitate the safe evacuation of American citizens from Gaza. Sullivan emphasized, “Anyone who is a U.S. citizen should have the right to free passage through there and then have the U.S. government facilitate their travel home”
The conflict has exacted a significant toll, with reports indicating over 1,300 casualties in Israel and approximately 3,200 more individuals injured. Among the victims, at least 27 are American citizens. Additionally, there are concerns that dozens of individuals have been taken hostage by Hamas, including U.S. citizens. In tandem with efforts to assist U.S. citizens in leaving Gaza, officials are also working diligently to facilitate the evacuation of Americans from Israel as Israeli forces confront attacks from both Hamas and Hezbollah along the Lebanon border.