WASHINGTON: At least 27 American citizens have died and 14 remain unaccounted for as a result of unfolding violence in Israel and the US will arrange charter flights to evacuate its citizens from the strife-torn Jewish state, the White House has announced. Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out a barrage of air strikes in Southern Israel on Saturday.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in response launched multiple attacks targeting Hamas’ key infrastructure. So far, over 2,000 people have been killed in Israel and the Gaza Strip in the biggest escalation in decades between the two sides.
India is one of the first countries to evacuate its citizens from Israel.
On the sixth day of violence, the Israeli military said more than 1,300 people, including 222 soldiers, were killed in Israel. In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, over 1,400 people have been killed in Israel’s offensive against the Palestinian militant group, according to authorities there.
“We are all acutely aware of limited availability right now on commercial flights out of Israel and the demand signal by US citizens who may want to depart.
The president has asked his team to ensure that we are assisting US citizens who do want to leave Israel and providing them with a safe means of doing that,” said John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council at the White House
Beginning tomorrow, the United States government will arrange charter flights to provide transportation from Israel to sites in Europe.
They’re still working through some of the details of that to assist US citizens and their immediate family members who have, for whatever reason, not been able to provide commercial transit out of the country,” he said on Thursday.
The US is also exploring other options to expand the capacity of doing this, including exploring whether it is possible to help Americans leave by land and by sea, the White House said.
“We are working hard on this, we know there’s a demand signal out there, and we’re going to try the best we can to meet it,” Kirby said.
He encouraged American citizens in need of assistance to complete the intake form on the Travel.State.gov website.
“We can now update the number of Americans that we know have been killed is 27 and the number of unaccounted for stands today at 14.
We’re obviously doing everything we can to support and inform the families,” Kirby said
Kirby said that it is a common tactic in the Hamas playbook to break up hostages and move them around in small groups.
“So, we have nothing that would indicate to us that they would follow a different set of protocols, but I can’t stand here before you and prove to you that that is exactly what’s happening,” he said.
Kirby refuted allegations that Iran has used the USD 6 billion of American aid. “It’s still sitting in a Qatari bank. All of it. None of that money has been spent, and I have no updates to provide today…What I can tell you is that every single dime of that money is still sitting in a Qatari bank. Not one dime of it has been spent,” he said
This account, although it is moved from South Korea to Qatar, was set up by the previous administration for the same purpose, he said.
“In fact, I think it was back in 2018, the former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo actually talked in quite some detail about how this money in these accounts could only be used for humanitarian purposes and that there was going to be oversight,” he said.
“We’ve done nothing different. It is the same process. All we’ve done is move that fund from South Korea — where, for some technical reasons, it wasn’t accessible to Qatar, where it is more accessible,” Kirby said.
“All that said, none of it has been accessed by the Iranians at all. And even if they had accessed it, it wouldn’t go to the regime, it would go to approved vendors — that we approved — to go buy food, medicine and medical equipment, and agricultural products and ship it into Iran directly to the benefit of the Iranian people,” he added.