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Thursday, June 13, 2024

US intelligence agencies assisted Israeli hostage rescue in Gaza

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The United States provided information that helped rescue four Israeli hostages on Saturday, according to several people familiar with the matter.

A U.S. team in Israel provided the information, these people said, although it appeared to be secondary to the intelligence the Israelis had gathered ahead of the operation. One person said the US material contained overhead footage. All spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation.

That team, made up of special operations personnel and intelligence personnel working out of the embassy in Jerusalem, has been in Israel since the war began in October. It has since shared with Israeli counterparts information about the potential location of the hostages gleaned from U.S. drone surveillance over Gaza, communications intercepts and other sources, the people familiar with the matter said.

“The United States supports all efforts to secure the release of hostages still held by Hamas, including American citizens,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. He noted that this work includes ongoing negotiations and “other means.”

Axios and the New York Times also reported on US involvement in the rescue operation.

Hamas and other militants took about 250 hostages during their brutal cross-border attack on Israel on October 7, a horrific attack that left 1,200 dead. At least 112 people have been released, either as part of a negotiated deal between Israel and Hamas late last year or through coordinated rescue operations.

Of the hostages remaining in Gaza, fewer than 80 are believed to be alive. Eight U.S. citizens are believed to be among those still in captivity, including the remains of three who are dead.

Saturday’s mission was part of a broader Israeli operation in central Gaza that killed at least 210 Palestinians, according to local health authorities. Israeli officials described the rescue operation as weeks in the making and made possible by “precise intelligence.” Daniel Hagari, an Israeli army spokesman, said two buildings were targeted and the personnel involved caught fire.

Washington maintains what a US official described Saturday as a “very deep partnership” with Israel in its hostage rescue efforts.

Days after the Gaza war began, the Pentagon acknowledged that a “small number” of U.S. military personnel were at the embassy in Jerusalem to assist the Israeli government through planning and intelligence support.

U.S. intelligence analysts are also helping Israeli officials in some of their work to map the vast network of tunnels that Hamas has built under Gaza, contributing powerful analytical technologies that piece together fragments of information, according to officials with knowledge of that work.

U.S. defense officials have said that while U.S. military personnel have advised the Israelis, they have not accompanied the Israeli military on missions in the Gaza Strip. President Biden has been adamant that he will not put American “boots on the ground” there.

Shane Harris contributed to this report.