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White House: Israel-Hamas prisoner deal not imminent

February 5, 2024 at 10:38 am

US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan speaks during a daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House March 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. [Alex Wong/Getty Images]

US National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan said yesterday that a possible prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas is not “imminent”, noting that it is difficult to determine a timetable for such a deal.

“It cannot be said that an agreement is imminent. This type of negotiation takes place slowly and then accelerates, and it is difficult to set a timetable,” Sullivan said in remarks to NBC, adding: “We all want an end to the war, but this end must be serious and sustainable. To end the war, we need all hostages to return, and to ensure that Hamas is unable to pose a threat to Israel.”

Sullivan also told NBC that President Joe Biden has ordered a “firm and serious” response to the attacks against US bases in the Middle East.

“The president has been very clear from the beginning that when our forces are targeted, we will respond. The president is determined to respond forcefully, but we are not looking for a broader war in the Middle East.”

US strikes on Syria and Iraq, which began on Friday, he explained, are not the end of the US response and that Washington plans to launch other strikes and take additional measures.

These strikes, he explained, had a “good effect in weakening their [anti-US forces’] capabilities.”

At dawn on Saturday, the US Central Command (Centcom) announced that it had launched “retaliatory strikes” in Iraq and Syria, against 85 targets of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and armed groups loyal to it.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry responded by recalling the US Chargé d’Affaires in Baghdad, to hand him an official note of protest regarding “the attack that targeted military and civilian sites” in the country.

The Iraqi government said the American attacks led to the death of 16 people, including civilians, in addition to wounding 25 others, and also caused losses and damage to residential buildings and citizens’ property.

The American strikes came in response to an attack on an American base on the Jordanian-Syrian border  days earlier, which resulted in the death of three soldiers and the injury of 25 others.

Washington held the Islamic Resistance in Iraq responsible for the attack, which was described as the “strongest” against the United States since Israel launched its devastating war on the besieged Gaza Strip on 7 October.

Read: What are US troops doing in the Middle East and where are they?