Hamas is stopping hundreds of Americans from leaving Gaza, according to U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who revealed during a recent interview that the terrorist group has made a series of demands.
Around 500 to 600 U.S. passport holders are believed to be trapped in Gaza, hoping to get out, according to the Biden administration official. Tensions in the area have increased as Israel expands its military operations in Gaza weeks after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack resulted in the deaths of 1,400 people, the majority of them civilians.
In an interview with CBS that aired Sunday, Sullivan revealed that the Biden administration remains in contact with the American citizens in Gaza. The national security advisor also stated that the administration is working to help them leave, saying that Egypt is willing to allow Americans and other foreign nationals out of Gaza.
"But Hamas is preventing their departure and making a series of demands," Sullivan said. "We're trying to work through that to create a circumstance where all of the Americans who are in Gaza are able to get out."
"It is a priority for the president," he added. "He has no higher priority than their safe passage out. And he will continue to work at it until it is accomplished."
According to a Sunday statement from the White House, President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the situation in Gaza, such as the release of the over 200 individuals taken hostage by Hamas, which included several Americans.
Biden also emphasized the need to increase humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, with the pair agreeing to remain in contact through their respective security teams, according to the statement.
As The Times of Israel reported Sunday, Israel reopened the second of three water pipelines to provide water to the Gaza Strip. However, the outlet noted that 90% of Gaza's water is self-sourced and is supposed to go through desalination plants. Due to a lack of fuel, which Israel says Hamas is keeping from civilians, these plants have been unable to run.
According to a Hamas-run health ministry, around 8,000 Palestinians have died since the start of the war between Israel and the terrorist group. However, these numbers are difficult to verify. The figures may be counting both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, according to The Times of Israel.
During a televised news conference on Saturday, the Israeli prime minister spoke about the new phase of the war between Israel and Hamas after the latter increased its presence in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu said that the goal is to eradicate the terrorist group and secure the release of the hostages.
"There are moments in which a nation faces two possibilities: to do or die," Netanyahu said. "We now face that test, and I have no doubt how it will end: We will be the victors. We will do, and we will be the victors."
Earlier this month, Netanyahu promised that there would be an investigation into Hamas' Oct. 7 assault against Israel but indicated that this would likely happen after the war.
In preparation for its ground assault, the Israel Defense Forces have repeatedly urged civilians in Gaza to evacuate. Last Thursday, the IDF released an audio call between an officer in the Military Intelligence Directorate's Unit 504 and a Gazan man.
During the call, the officer instructed the man to move toward Khan Yunis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip. The man replied that Hamas had blocked the roads and that the terrorist group was also shooting at people who attempted to follow Israel's warnings to evacuate.
"Hamas continues to use the civilians of Gaza as human shields, not allowing them to evacuate," the IDF stated.