(WASHINGTON) — White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Peter Lerner separately praised a recent Israeli hostage rescue operation that freed four Israeli captives in Gaza amid fierce fighting against Hamas.

Sullivan said the Biden administration has been “working for months” with Israel to help it recover the remaining hostages from Gaza, some of whom are believed to be dead, while pressing for precautions to be taken to avoid civilian casualties as rescue efforts continue.


“The United States will support Israel and taking steps to try to rescue hostages who are currently being held in harm, held by Hamas, and we will continue to work with Israel to do that. We will also continue to reinforce the point that all of their military operations, including hostage rescue operations, should take every precaution to minimize the amount of civilian harm or civilian casualties,” Sullivan told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

The comments come after an expansive operation in central Gaza to free hostages Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv.

At least 274 people were killed in central Gaza on Saturday as the Israeli military moved into the Nuseirat camp to rescue the four hostages, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Sunday. Another 698 people were injured as Israeli forces entered the refugee camp, the ministry said.


Israel’s military said no more than 100 civilians were killed in the operation.

When pressed by Raddatz on Sunday on the disparity, Sullivan said the administration is “looking into it” while highlighting a three-tiered cease-fire proposal President Joe Biden said came from the Israelis that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tweaked in recent days and Hamas has not yet agreed to.

“We see individual instances that we have spoken out about where we would like to see them operate differently, where we would like them to be more precise, more targeted in their operations. And we will continue to speak out on those issues,” Sullivan told Raddatz. “If Hamas came and said yes to the deal on the table, there would be an end to the need for these kinds of operations, because the hostages would be coming out peacefully and not through military actions.”


Biden has become increasingly outspoken in his criticism of the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza, while remaining steadfastly supportive of efforts to recover hostages taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack that killed more than 1,200 people. The death toll in Gaza since the war broke out climbed on Saturday to 37,084 people, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said. More than 84,000 others have been injured since Oct. 7, the ministry said.

Lerner on Sunday blamed Hamas for the high death toll in Gaza, accusing the group of putting civilians in harm’s way.

“Every civilian life lost in this war is a result of how Hamas has operated,” he told Raddatz. “Let’s think about, just for a moment, where they were holding the hostages. Within civilian houses. Within people’s apartments. In the same apartment they were being held [were] the families that owned the apartments. This exemplifies specifically how Hamas are operating.”


Lerner said the Israeli military could conduct similar operations to recover hostages — but that Israel is also open to negotiations for their return.

“The 120 hostages remain in the clutches of Hamas. There can be a rescue mission like what happened yesterday,” he said. “But there could also have been negotiations that create the opportunity. Our role is to create the conditions either way, that Hamas realizes that they should give back the hostages, they should set the hostages free.”

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