Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused militant group Hamas of blocking Americans and citizens of other nations from crossing into Egypt from Gaza and said that “some significant number” of the 10 unaccounted for Americans are being held hostage by Hamas.
“We have several hundred Americans and other nationalities, other civilians from other countries who want to leave Gaza,” Blinken said on Face the Nation. “We’ve had people come to Rafah, the crossing with Egypt. And to date, at least, Hamas has blocked them from leaving, showing once again, its total disregard for civilians of any kind who are stuck in Gaza.”
The militant group launched an Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed around 1,400 and captured 200 others, including Americans. Israel has begun an air offensive in retaliation, and more than 4,300 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. Facilitated by the Red Cross, Hamas released two American hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan, at the Gaza border on Friday.
During an appearance on Meet the Press, Blinken said of the remaining Americans being held hostage, “We’ve got 10 unaccounted for Americans. We believe that some significant number are hostages… and it just underscores the horror. Israel continues to discover, uncover people who are killed who were slaughtered and I use that term very advisedly, slaughtered on Oct. 7. What we don’t know for sure is whether some of the unaccounted for are dead, and have simply not been uncovered yet, or whether they’re hostage, but we have a pretty strong idea that some number of the 10 at least are being held in Gaza by Hamas. “
Blinken told CBS’ Margaret Brennan that experienced diplomat David Satterfield is working closely with relevant governments “to make sure that we’re ready to be able to get people out, assuming Hamas lets them move.”
“So really, the ball is in Hamas’ court, in terms of letting people who want to leave, civilians from third countries including Americans get out of Gaza,” Blinken said.
Blinken told NBC’s Kristen Welker that Gaza cannot return to the “status quo” by again putting Hamas into power. “I think we know two things. We can’t go back to the status quo; they can’t go back to the status quo with Hamas being in a position in terms of its governance of Gaza to repeat what it did,” he said, adding, “At the same time, what I’ve heard from the Israelis is absolutely no intent, no desire, to be running Gaza themselves.”
Meanwhile, civilians in Gaza have been suffering immensely with very little access to food and clean water. “Right now we’re facing a catastrophe in the area with the inability to feed people and the inability for the people to find anything to eat at all. These people [in Gaza] are going to starve to death unless we can get in,” Cindy McCain, executive director of UN World Food Program, told Politico.
Over the weekend, 39 trucks with humanitarian aid were allowed to cross into Gaza from Egypt, but that aid is insufficient to meet the needs of Gaza’s people, according to U.N. officials who said that at least 100 trucks a day are necessary to meet urgent needs. Before the Oct. 7 attack, several hundred aid trucks were crossing into Gaza each day. Israel is currently planning a ground assault on Gaza that is expected to begin imminently as part of its promised effort to wipe Hamas “off the face of the earth.”