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Senior US officials applaud freeing of hostages, keep pushing ceasefire deal

“The humanitarian pier facility, including its equipment, personnel and assets were not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza,” U.S. Central Command said.

U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron at the 80th Anniversary of D-Day ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery in Normandy, France, June 6, 2024. Credit: Benjamin Applebaum/U.S. Department of Defense.
U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron at the 80th Anniversary of D-Day ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery in Normandy, France, June 6, 2024. Credit: Benjamin Applebaum/U.S. Department of Defense.

U.S. President Joe Biden, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented on Saturday on the Israeli military operation that freed four hostages. All three stressed their belief that a ceasefire deal is the appropriate way to secure the release of the other estimated 120 hostages.

Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the freed people—three men and a young woman—during a press conference at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Saturday.

“In Gaza, we want to obtain the immediate liberation of hostages, and we can only welcome the liberation of four hostages by the Israeli army,” the French president said, according to a White House transcript. “We want to achieve an immediate ceasefire and open up the prospect of a political solution, which is the only one that can bring about a fair and lasting peace and meet the security of [sic] concerns of both people. And that is why we are supporting the comprehensive proposal of the United States of America.”

Macron added that “the situation in Rafah and the human consequences are unacceptable,” and “it is not acceptable that Israel should not open all checkpoints to humanitarian aid as requested by the unite—international community for months.”

Biden echoed Macron’s comments “welcoming the safe rescue of four hostages that were returned to their families in Israel.”

“We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached,” the U.S. president said. “That is essential to happen.”

The White House also discussed the future of Gaza in a “French-American Roadmap” released on Saturday. In part, Biden and Macron “reaffirm their commitment to a two-state solution, the only way to ensure lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Also on Saturday, Sullivan stated that “Israeli security forces conducted a successful operation to rescue four hostages from the grips of Hamas in Gaza.”

“All four were taken from the Nova Music Festival on Oct. 7, and Hamas filmed the horrific abduction of Ms. Argamani for the world to see,” Sullivan said. “Now they are safe and reunited with their families. We commend the work of the Israeli security services that conducted this daring operation.”

The U.S. national security advisor added that Washington “is supporting all efforts to secure the release of hostages still held by Hamas, including American citizens.”

“This includes through ongoing negotiations or other means. The hostage release and ceasefire deal that is now on the table would secure the release of all the remaining hostages together with security assurances for Israel and relief for the innocent civilians in Gaza,” he said, noting that the G7 countries, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the 16 countries whose citizens Hamas kidnapped all endorse the deal.

“They all must be released—now,” Sullivan said.

“We welcome the rescue of four hostages who after eight months of captivity have finally been reunited with their families in Israel. The United States will not rest until every hostage is returned home,” Blinken stated.

The U.S. secretary of state added that “the proposal that President Biden outlined eight days ago would bring relief to both the people of Gaza and the remaining hostages and their families through an immediate ceasefire that could lead to the release of all hostages, a surge of humanitarian assistance, Gaza’s reconstruction and an enduring end to the war.”

“The only thing standing in the way of achieving this ceasefire is Hamas,” he added. “It is time for them to accept the deal.”

‘No U.S. military personnel went ashore’

Following some reports that Israeli forces had used the temporary pier to launch the operation, U.S. Central Command stated on Saturday that the “humanitarian pier facility, including its equipment, personnel and assets, were not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza.”

“An area south of the facility was used by the Israelis to safely return the hostages to Israel,” CENTCOM stated. “Any such claim to the contrary is false. The temporary pier on the coast of Gaza was put in place for one purpose only—to help move additional, urgently needed lifesaving assistance into Gaza.”

CENTCOM also said on Saturday that it delivered about 1.1 million metric tons of aid to Palestinians starting that morning. To date, it has delivered about 3.5 million metric tons of aid.

“No U.S. military personnel went ashore in Gaza,” it said. “This ongoing effort in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to deliver additional aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza is entirely humanitarian in nature and involves aid commodities donated by several countries and humanitarian organizations.”

CNN drew criticism on Saturday for claiming that the hostages, who were rescued in an Israeli military operation, were “released.”

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