WASHINGTON – The Hamas terror group is blocking hundreds of Americans who are stuck inside the Gaza Strip from leaving the territory, a senior defense official said Monday. The situation is a grim twist on the pro-Palestinian talking point that Israel runs Gaza as an “open-air prison” — despite not controlling the area since 2005.With Israel readying its forces to ramp up its ground invasion following Hamas’ slaughter of more than 1,400 people — including at least 33 Americans — on Oct. 7, US officials are working overtime to secure the release of Americans who wish to leave before hostilities intensify.“There has been an intensive State Department-led effort to work with all relevant stakeholders, which include Israel, Egypt, the United Nations and Hamas, who has to allow for safe movement of those civilians through Gaza and out through the Rafah crossing [into Egypt,]” the official said.On Monday morning, Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the situation with Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. The secretary was also involved in multiple talks with Doha over the weekend, Miller added. Qatar is a key intermediary for US talks with Hamas, having hosted the jihadist group’s political leadership for more than a decade.“Our work to ensure the safety of American citizens in Gaza continues to be our highest priority,” Miller told reporters Monday. “We will continue to work at the highest levels to secure the release of every hostage held by Hamas, and the safe passage of those American citizens in Gaza who want to leave.” It’s unclear how many Americans may be among the roughly 200 hostages held by Hamas. Two US citizens were released on Oct. 20 after the US enlisted the help of Qatar in negotiations.“Hamas has not yet agreed to release anyone other than [those who have been released to date,]” Miller said. “With respect to American citizens who want to leave Gaza, they continue to not operate their side of the Rafah gate.”The Pentagon official said that the US has military forces in the region prepared to support “hostage recovery efforts in Gaza, as well as working with all relevant stakeholders for the safe evacuation of American citizens and others of interest to the United States from Gaza.”So far, they have not been tasked with any efforts to that effect, the person added.“With respect to military-assisted departures, I don’t have anything to report for you today, other than to say we’re the Department of Defense, and we’re prepared for every contingency,” the official said.While the defense official said there were “hundreds” of US citizens in Gaza wishing to leave, a State Department spokesperson told The Post that the agency could not give a precise figure.“We are in communication with US citizens requesting assistance departing Gaza,” the spokesperson said. “Due to safety and security considerations, and the fact that this is a fluid and quickly evolving situation, we are not in a position to provide a number.”The State Department has chartered several flights out of Israel for Americans stuck in the Jewish state without flights home after major airlines ceased operations in the country at the onset of the conflict. The last US-chartered flight will take off on Tuesday, Miller said, after just five passengers took a recent flight.
31 Ekim 2023 - 02:10
Hamas won’t let hundreds of Americans trapped in Gaza leave: Pentagon
There are hundreds of Americans still in Gaza who want to leave, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday, but Hamas is blocking their departures.
31 Ekim 2023 - 02:10