5:54 P.M. EDT

MR. KIRBY:  Good evening, everybody.  As you know, the White House has been closely following the situation in Israel, and the President has been actively engaged, regularly receiving updates on the latest developments from the national security team.  In fact, this morning, he met with members of the senior team — including the Secretary of State; National Security Advisor; the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor; the Homeland Security Advisor, Liz Sherwood-Randall; and, of course, the White House Chief of Staff, Jeff Zients — all to receive the latest update from — from the morning.  

He has also spoken twice with Prime Minister Netanyahu this — over the weekend, certainly to express our deep sympathy for all those missing, wounded, and killed and to pledge his full support for Israel at this incriti- — critical and dangerous moment.

He has also spoken with many of our allies and partners — including the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom — just this afternoon to help coordinate our efforts.

In response to Hamas’s horrific terrorist attacks, President Biden directed his team to do everything we can to ensure that the government of Israel has what it needs.  At his direction, our military began shipping military aid to Israel and the Secretary of Defense has adjusted our force posture in the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts.

Our teams at the White House and across the U.S. government have been in close contact with our Israeli partners and are working with our regional partners to warn anyone who might seek to take advantage in this situation against taking hostile action.

We will have more assistance to announce over the coming days to ensure that no enemies of Israel believe that they can or should try to seek advantage from the current situation.

Hundreds of innocent civilians were murdered, including at least 11 American citizens, and there are other American citizens who remain unaccounted for. 

The U.S. government is doing everything we can to determine the whereabouts of these U.S. citizens.  The President has directed his team to work with their Israeli counterparts on every aspect of the hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery efforts.

Let me say once again that the United States unequivocally condemns these horrific terrorist attacks in Israel, which have taken the lives of Israeli and American citizens, as well as citizens from many countries around the world.

And as the President has said, our hearts go out to every single family impacted and affected by the horrible, reprehensible events of the past few days.  To quote from his statement from this afternoon, “The pain [that] these families have endured, the enormity of their loss, and the agony of those [that are] still [waiting for] information is unfathomable.”

Terrorism is never justified, and what we have seen Hamas do is appalling and horrific.  We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Israeli people in this moment of crisis for them.

And in keeping with that commitment, you will also see that they will light the White House up tonight in blue and white in honor of Israeli colors and the Israeli flag.  That will — that will take place right after sundown.  

So, with that, I’m happy to take some questions.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our first question will go to Yuna with Israel Channel 12.  Yuna, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Yes.  Can you hear me now? 

MS. REPOSA:  We sure can.

Q    Okay, thank you, John.  Thank you, all the team.  Thank you for doing this.  I have a few questions.  First, would the United States in any scenario join this war if we see more fronts from Iran or Hezbollah?  Does the United States sees Iran as responsible for this war?

And also a question about the military aid.  What is the scope?  How fast will it be delivered?  And what is the message the United States wants to send with the deployment of the aircraft carrier and the other ships that are arriving to the region?

MR. KIRBY:  Can I ask you to repeat the first question?  It broke up.  It was something about us joining, but I didn’t get the rest of it. 

Q    Yeah.  Is there any scenario of the U.S. joining the war if we see more fronts from Iran or Hezbollah?

MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  So, on your first question, I mean, there’s no intention to put U.S. boots on the ground. 

That said, as evidenced — and this kind of gets to your third question — as evidenced by the changes in our force posture in the region, including the movement of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group into the Eastern Med, President Biden will always make sure that we are protecting and defending our national security interests wherever those interests are, including particularly in that part of the world.  And I think I’ll leave it at that. 

And then, your other question was about the aid.  I can tell you that the first tranche of additional security assistance — and I say “additional” because, you know, we have a longstanding defense relationship with Israel whereby there are routine security assistance being delivered and worked on together with them.  But in the wake of these terrorist attacks — the first tranche in the wake of these terrorist attacks are — is already on the way.  And I had a chance to speak with my colleagues at the Defense Department just before getting on with you to confirm that, but it’s on the way. 

I don’t believe it’s actually made it to Israel yet, but it is — it is — it’s making its way there.  And we will — obviously, we fully expect that there will be additional requests for security assistance from Israel as they continue to expend munitions in this fight.  And we will stay in lockstep with them, making sure that we’re filling their needs as best — as best we can and as fast as we can. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. REPOSA:  Great.  Thank you.  Our next — sorry, we’re having a little bit of a tech issue.  My computer froze. 

Our next question will go to Aamer with the AP.

Q    Hey.  Thank you, John.  Thank you, Sam.  Just wanted to ask you — because, you know, the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry’s statement soon after the attacks did not condemn Hamas, instead noting it had repeatedly warned that Israel’s occupation and the deprivation of Palestinian people of their legitimate rights was the cause of this. 

One, was the administration disappointed in the response?  And more generally, does this current environment halt or, at the very minimum, set back hopes for an Israel-Saudi normalization deal?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll let the Saudis speak to their statement; I can only speak to ours. 

And it’s been pretty clear and unequivocal what we think about these terrorist attacks and what we think about our responsibilities and our commitment to the Israeli people.

On normalization, Aamer — we still believe that normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia is not only good for the people of those two nations, but for the American people and for everybody else in the region.  And we have every intention to continue to encourage a process where normalization can occur. 

I couldn’t speculate now as to what impact the events of the last 36 hours is going to have on — on those efforts.  But nothing has changed about our — our continued desire to pursue that kind of an outcome. 

And in any event, Aamer, we’re — even before the attacks of the weekend, we were, you know, months away from — you know, from getting close to some sort of agreed-to negotiation here.  So, we intend to keep — keep at that work. 

Now, obviously, the focus right now, in these hours, is much more in line with supporting Israel’s ability to defend itself.  That’s where our energies are being applied most stringently, and certainly that’s where they should appropriately be applied.  But nothing has changed about our desire to see that normalization occur.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Barak with Axios.  Barak, you should be able to —

Q    Yeah.

MS. REPOSSA:  There you go.

Q    Thank you so much for doing this.  And, John, I just wanted to say I watched your interview tonight on CNN, and, you know, thank you for the things you said.  You’re a real mensch.  I just wanted to say that. 

And second thing, to follow up on what Yuna asked before: Is the White House considering or discussing asking Congress to give some kind of — to approve some kind of war powers in order for the U.S. to be able to use force if Hezbollah will join the war, especially in things like using air — air power in Lebanon or using U.S. assets for missile interception and things like that?

MR. KIRBY:  Barak, and I meant to say this when — when Yuna asked her question, but I got distracted.  I am not going to ask you for any detail, but I do hope that your family and your loved ones and your friends are safe and that you had a chance to stay in communication with them. 

On your question, I know of no such assets being considered at this time.  You know, we, obviously, as I said earlier, will — the President will do what he has to do to look after our national security interests there and elsewhere.  That — that’s not going to change.  But I know of no specific efforts to seek additional authorities or anything from Congress in the — in any kind of a hypothetical situation.

On Hezbollah, you know, we certainly have seen the attacks from Lebanon into northern Israel.  We’ve certainly seen the IDF respond to those attacks.  There’s been conflicting messages coming out of Hezbollah about the degree to which they will or plan to get involved. 

One of the reasons why the President ordered that carrier strike group into Eastern Med is to send a clear, unequivocal message to any actor or nation-state that thinks that is a — that this is a chance to try to take advantage of the position that Israel finds itself in, and we want that message to be let — heard loud and clear.  We always will do what we need to do to protect our people, our troops, our national security interests. 

And, again, I just know of no efforts to — to go to Congress with any kind of additional authorities.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Steve Holland with Reuters.

Q    Thank you.  Do you have any more clarity on how many American hostages that Hamas is holding?

MR. KIRBY:  Steve, we — we can’t confirm that they are in fact holding hostages.  We are working literally by the hour to try to get more information about these unaccounted-for Americans.  The truth is, we don’t have a solid idea of how many total are unaccounted for.  Well, you know, we got an idea and — but we don’t know where they are, so I can’t say definitively that we know that Americans are being held hostage. 

That said, we have to accept the grim possibility that some are.  And I don’t want to say we’re assuming it, but we have to accept that grim possibility. 

So, we’re going to keep at this.  We’re going to stay in touch with Israeli officials as closely as we can to get as much information as we can about — about all the Americans in Israel, particularly those that that we know are unaccounted for, because they — the family members can’t reach them. 

Q    And just to follow up on Aamer’s question about normalization, has this conflict basically forced you to hit the pause button on these negotiations?

MR. KIRBY:  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.  I would — I would tell you though, look, it’s only been — what? — a couple of days.  And so, our focus and the focus of the folks here at the NSC — Brett McGurk and his team — are rightly and appropriately on this: on supporting Israel, trying to ground truth on our Americans, supporting the families that’ve got the worst possible news yesterday and today.  But I think it’s too soon to say that, you know, we’ve hit the brakes on this. 

It’s just — it, understandably, isn’t the main area of focus right now.  But I wouldn’t go so far as to say, you know, we’ve given up on it or we don’t have any interest in pursuing it. 

It just — again, given the circumstances, is not — not on the front burner, but — but certainly we’re not — we’re not — we’re not discarding it. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Gabby with Jewish Insider.

Q    Hey, thank you so much for doing this.  I have a couple of questions.  First, the White House has said that there’s no direct evidence at this point linking Iran to this attack.  Can you share what you do know about a possible Iran connection with Hamas here?

And second, Secretary Blinken tweeted yesterday calling for a ceasefire, but he deleted the tweet since then.  So is the administration’s position here to call for a ceasefire?  And what’s your perspective on that language?  Thank you so much.

MR. KIRBY:  So, on Iran, let me start by saying that no question that there’s a degree of complicity here, but Iran has been supporting Hamas for many, many years — tools, training, capabilities — certainly rhetorically but in more much more tangible ways than that.  So, absolutely, there’s a degree of complicity here writ large. 

That said, we haven’t — and we’re — and we are looking through the information streams.  We haven’t seen hard, tangible evidence that Iran was directly involved in participating in or resourcing and planning these sets of complex attacks that Hamas pulled off over the weekend. 

Again, we’re going to keep looking at it.  Our Israeli counterparts are also actively looking, and even they have publicly said they don’t see the — quote, unquote — smoking gun.  So we’ll just keep — we’ll just keep at it.  We’ll keep — we’ll keep trying to learn more.  But obviously, nobody is walking away from the fact that Iran has long supported Hamas.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Mary with ABC.

Q    Hi, Admiral.  Thank you for doing this.  You mentioned the President’s phone calls with Netanyahu, and I’m sure you’ve seen the Axios reporting that Netanyahu told the President that Israel doesn’t have a choice; they have to go into Gaza.  Is that reporting wrong?  Is it your understanding that Israel is readying a ground offensive?  And is that something that the U.S. would support or dissuade?

MR. KIRBY:  I won’t speak to the — in more detail to the private conversations that the President had with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I certainly will not put words in his mouth or verify anything that Prime Minister Netanyahu might have said or not said.  That would be inappropriate for me to do that. 

It is clear that given the size and the scale and the scope of the violence that have been visited on the Israeli people by Hamas that the Israeli Defense Forces are responding aggressively.  You don’t — you can look at the imagery and see that — that they’re being very, very aggressive in how they respond.  And I think it’s just more appropriate that we let them speak to their military operations, present and future tense. 

I wouldn’t even — even if this was an American operation, we wouldn’t talk about future military operations one way or the other.  So, I — I don’t want to start by doing that today.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Tamara with NPR.  Tam, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Oh, sorry.  I think I am unmuted now.  John, just regarding Ukraine funding, do you have any sense of whether the situation in Israel will put stress on White House efforts to secure aid for Ukraine?  Is it possible it could help speed that along?

And also, what does this situation mean for President Biden’s announced major address on Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t think we have a sense about whether or not there’ll be any kind of an impact base- — based on what’s happening in Israel.  I can just tell you that we believe both are — are important. 

Support to Ukraine needs to continue.  They are also at a critical moment in their counteroffensive with — you know, with weeks of good weather left to try to make more progress.  So, it’s a critical need.  We’re going to continue to make that case on Capitol Hill. 

We continue to appreciate the bipartisan support by the majority of members of the House and Senate for — for supporting Ukraine, and we’ll continue to make that case.  We continue to want our supplemental request approved so that there’s no lapse at all — not even a day — in support to Ukraine.

Israel — obviously, we have a longstanding defense relationship with them.  We have existing authorities and existing appropriations to continue to support Israel if we need.  And I’m — it’s an “if,” but if we need to go back to Capitol Hill for additional funding support for Israel, we will absolutely do that.  We have kept members of Congress informed over the last couple of days about what’s going on, what we’re learning, what we’re seeing, what we’re doing.  That will continue. 

And, again, if part of that conversation needs to be a request for additional funding, well, by goodness, we’ll have that conversation and we’ll go to them. 

And if that was to be the case, certainly it would just validate the fact that both are important.  And we a large enough, big enough, economically viable and vibrant enough country to be able to support both.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Vivia- — Vivian with the Wall Street Journal.

Q    Thanks, Sam.  Hey, John.  So, I want to actually follow up on Mary’s question with regard to Gaza.  You’re — you said you don’t want to comment on Israeli military plans for a potential ground offensive, but I was wondering if you could comment about whether or not there has been any warning at any levels of the U.S. government against the targeting of civilians in Gaza. 

Obviously, you know, we saw tragically that Israeli civilians are — were victimized by this.  Also, we’re hearing about the civilian death toll in Gaza rising, and so that would obviously be even more so if there was a ground invasion because there’s very — there’s nowhere for them to go. 

So, is there — has there been any discussion with the Israelis to do whatever they can to avoid that and not make civilians part of the collateral, kind of, retaliation against the tragic — the tragic attacks that happened this weekend?  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  Look, I would just say, as we’ve said before, Israel has the right to defend itself, and you’re seeing them — you’re seeing them do that.  And in some ways, they’re doing it aggressively.  And given the size and scale and the scope of the violence, you know, we — we understand where that’s coming from.

I would — I would also say that we and Israel, as democracies, we have a lot of shared values and a lot of shared interests.  And certainly, one of those shared values and shared interest is respect for life — the kind of respect that Hamas is clearly not showing at all.  And (inaudible) —

Q    But the — but the residents in Gaza — a lot of them are not even sympathetic toward Hamas, so that’s kind of what I’m trying to get at is — is —

MR. KIRBY:  No, that’s — but that’s — but that’s —

Q    — any effort to try to distinguish and say, you know, there are people who should be spared who have nothing to do with this.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, nobody wants to see an innocent civilian killed or wounded or hurt in any way.  I mean, that — that — the whole — the whole premise of our statements to date have been, you know, that — you know, again, terrorism and this kind of violence has no place.  And so, nobody wants to see anybody — an innocent civilian or a family — wrecked by violence.  Of course not. 

But, again, you know, we have — we share values with Israel when it comes to law of war and respect for life.  And, again, I just — I can’t — I won’t speak to whatever Israeli Defense Forces are planning to do in their operations, but — but I think I’ll just leave it there.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Kevin with CNN.

Q    Thanks.  Thanks, John.  I know you can’t say what the number of potential hostages are, but I’m wondering if you could describe in more detail how you’re trying to determine whether and how many hostages there are.  Are you in communication with the Israelis?  Are you asking families to come to you?  Are you monitoring — are you looking for videos?  What is the effort look like to try and make the determination of how many Americans are being held hostage?

MR. KIRBY:  It’s a little bit of — it’s sort of all of the above, to be honest with you. 

I mean, clearly, we are in direct communication with Israeli officials to learn what they know, understanding that it’s a very dynamic time for them and they don’t even have perfect knowledge of every Israeli citizen and where every Israeli citizen is.  So, we understand that they’re under a great strain.  But yes, we’re in direct communication with them at various levels to try to get as much information as they might have that can help us. 

And yes, we have been hearing from many family members.  I wouldn’t go so far to say that we’re, you know, cold calling families the — because, you know, we wouldn’t have the — wouldn’t have the information to be able to do that.  You know, American citizens don’t need to tell us where they are, where they’re traveling, where they’re living. 

But — but we are certainly hearing from — actively hearing from many families of Americans in Israel asking if we’ve heard anything, do we know anything, sharing with us what they can about what they know of their loved one or when they last heard from them.

So, we are getting input directly from families, and that’s certainly very helpful in terms of giving us a sense of the — of the scope of the problem set. 

I’m leery right now to get into any more detail than that, other than to say that we know there is a number of unaccounted–for Americans, and we’re trying very, very hard on an individual basis to try to track them down and to — and to try to figure out where they are.

Q    And could you characterize how many families you’ve heard from at this point?

MR. KIRBY:  I think I’ll leave the — I’ll leave that to the State Department to clarify.  I don’t know that that’s appropriate coming from me, but we certainly have heard from — from a number of — of families, and I think that’s about as much detail as I can go into tonight.

Q    Okay, thanks.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Alexander with Yahoo News.

Q    Hey, thanks, Sam.  Thank you, Admiral, for doing this.  A few questions — three if it’s okay. 

One, do you have a sense of whether Hamas was using the tunnels under the Sinai to smuggle in, you know, the drones, the Qassam rockets or the components of the rockets, and other equipment they needed?  And if so, then, you know, where — where did it come from?  Did it come from Iran?

Second, you know, do you have any — well, I guess — I guess I’ll put it this way: If Hezbollah opens a front in the north and then, you know, Lebanon is pulled in and then Syria, potentially — I mean, are we looking at potentially a much larger conflict than what we have today?  And, sort of, how do we avoid that?

And my third question is: Does the U.S. know where Mohammed Deif is and the other — sort of, the ranking leaders of Hamas?  And if so, has that intelligence been shared with Israel?

MR. KIRBY:  I think you can understand I wouldn’t get into the details of intelligence sharing with Israel.  We — we have a strong intel-sharing relationship.  We are obviously improving and sharpening that here in the wake of these attacks, and I can’t go into more detail on that. 

I don’t — I won’t get into the specific intelligence about Hamas’s preparations in planning and resourcing for this.  I would just say what I said before: We have not seen any specific, tangible piece of evidence or fact that points directly to Iranian participation in these sets of attacks.

Q    Right.  So, Admiral, does that mean the Wall Street Journal report was incorrect?

MR. KIRBY:  That means that we cannot corroborate the reporting in the Wall Street Journal.  We are obviously looking at this.  Our Israeli counterparts are looking at it, and they too have said publicly that they cannot point to specific Iranian involvement in these sets of attacks over the weekend.

So, again, you know, we’ll just keep at it.  We’ll just have to keep at the work. 

And then on the other question about Hezbollah: Nobody wants to see the — this conflict broaden or deepen or grow or escalate.  I can’t speak for what Hezbollah may or may not do.  They’ve already launched rockets in there.  They have said confusing things about their intentions.  On one hand, saying that, you know, obviously they support what Hamas has done.  On the other hand, saying they have no interest in getting involved unless Gaza is invaded by — by the IDF. 

I can’t — I can’t hypothesize about where this might go, but clearly, we don’t — we don’t want to see it escalate. 

And look, one of the reasons why the President directed the Defense Department to move additional military forces in and around and near the region is to send a strong message of deterrence that no other actor, no other nation-state, no other group ought to be looking at this as a chance to take advantage. 

Q    Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, sir.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to James Rosen.

Q    Can you all hear me?

MS. REPOSA:  We sure can.

Q    Thank you, Sam.  And thank you, Admiral.  Two questions, if you would.  First, is President Biden committed to supporting Israel in its campaign against Hamas for as long as it takes?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, you want to do the second one or you just want to take it one by one?

Q    One by one, if you would. 

MR. KIRBY:  He — I think he’s been very clear that we will — our — our relationship with — with Israel is rock solid, ironclad, unshakable.  That’s not going to change.  And that’s not — that’s not just hyperbole or empty rhetoric, James; I mean, that is a longstanding position of the United States across multiple administrations — Democratic and Republican. 

And Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel for his entire life in public service, and that will not change certainly for as long as he’s president of the United States.

Q    Just to follow up on question one — hopefully without sacrificing my ability to pose a second question: I didn’t ask you if the support is “unwavering, rock solid.”  I asked specifically, is President Biden committed to supporting Israel in its campaign against Hamas “for as long as it takes.”  And you understand that I’m using that phrasing because it is the very phrasing that the President has used with President Zelenskyy and Ukraine.  Does Prime Minister Netanyahu receive that same assurance?

MR. KIRBY:  I think Prime Minister Netanyahu knows very well, based on the conversations he’s had with the President in just the last day or so, how strongly President Biden and the United States and this administration stands with Israel.

Q    Question two.  After Prime Minister Netanyahu took office last December, President Biden shunned him.  He withheld from the Prime Minister the traditional invitation to the White House and only consented nine months later to a brief session at a Manhattan hotel on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.  Knowing everything we know today, wasn’t this rejection of closer coordination with the Israeli head of state a major mistake by President Biden?

MR. KIRBY:  I would take issue with the premise of your question, James.  There was no shunning.  There was no disrespect.  The President had a — has had a long relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  He certainly had a chance to speak with him after he formed his government.  We have been clear and very consistent in our support for the democratic institutions and the shared values that we both cherish — both the Israeli people and the United States.

The President will — will always speak honestly and candidly with foreign leaders, particularly with those countries with whom we’re — we’re so close and have such a great relationship like — like Israel.

So, again, grateful that he had the chance to speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu twice yesterday [this weekend], and I fully expect that you will see additional conversations between those two leaders in the coming days. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you.  We have time for one more question, which will go to Anita with VOA.

Q    Thank you so much for doing this, John.  Just quickly on the carrier strike group — if you can just share some details for us about what role it will play.  Is it going to help Israel with the siege or blockade of Gaza?  Is it authorized to use offensive force against enemy targets?  And then I have a question about hostages.

MR. KIRBY:  I won’t talk about ROE.  The strike force is a very capable military — naval military power.  And it’s being dispatched for really two purposes: A strong signal of reassurance to the American people who live in the region, to our allies and partners in the region that the United States won’t — does not want to see anybody else try to take advantage; and then deterrence — deterrence of anybody who might think that way. 

But there’s a lot of capabilities in that strike force, and — and I — and we believe that the folks in the region — they understand — they understand what those capabilities are.  And I won’t get beyond that. 

As I said earlier, there was no intention to put U.S. troops — U.S. boots on the ground in Israel. 

What’s your second question?

Q    My second question is about the hostages — if the U.S. is thinking about any action to find and rescue the hostages in Gaza, if the U.S. is willing to talk to Hamas or has talked to Hamas. 

And then separately, has the President spoken to any of the affected American families?  And can you share any details of those conversations?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any calls with the families to read out.  I know the State Department has reached out to at least the first nine that we were able to confirm.  I don’t know if they’ve spoken to the families of the additional two that we learned today had been killed.  But they did reach the families of the first nine that we knew of. 

Oh, shoot, you had another one.  What was the —

Q    Yeah, I was just wondering if the U.S. is contemplating any action to find and rescue the hostages?

MR. KIRBY:  Oh — oh, yeah.  Yeah.  

Q    And if you’re willing to talk to Hamas to get them back?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, so, first of all, we can’t confirm that Americans are being held hostage. 

I mean, I’ve seen the reporting.  I’m aware of the comments by some Israeli officials.  We aren’t — we don’t — we cannot confirm that Americans are being held hostage. 

We have to accept the possibility and the likelihood that — that some may be — I mean, we’re not — you know, we’re not dismissing that, but we can’t confirm that.  So, your question is getting a little bit further ahead of information that we have. 

And even if we did have specific information that we could confirm that Americans are being held hostage, as you well know, we are very, very careful about talking publicly about our efforts to try to recover those Americans.  We just don’t typically talk about that in a — in any way that might jeopardize their safety and our ability to get them home with their families. 

But, again, it’s just a question we’re not really prepared to offer tangible answers to because we just don’t have the information to back it up.

MS. REPOSA:  Thank you. 

And I think Kirby has one final thought before we let you all go.

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, this really comes off of Anita’s question.  And I — and I’m glad — I was glad she asked it, and it was obviously an appropriate one to ask even though we don’t have information to back it up. 

And that is that there’s an awful lot of families — Israeli, American, and from other countries — that are hurting right now.  Some of them have got the most devastating news that a family can get.  Others are just torn apart with the uncertainty of not knowing where their loved one is or how their loved one is. 

And I just think it’s important that all of us keep that in mind.  And as we, as an administration, work with Israel, as we work through these problem sets, I just want to make it clear that, first and foremost, we’re going to keep those families in mind. 

These are all human beings.  They all have stories.  They all come from somewhere.  They all love someone.  They — they’re no different than you and me and the families that we have.  And that will be front and center in the policy decisions that are laying before us in the days ahead — the very difficult decisions that are laying before us in the days ahead.  And I just think it’s important that we don’t lose the — we just don’t lose the human component of all this. 

But anyway, thanks again for chiming in.  I know it’s late and I was late starting, and I apologize for that. 

But I’m glad we were — had this opportunity, and I’m sure we’ll have additional opportunities in the — in the days ahead in this week. 

Thank you.

MS. REPOSA:  Great.  Thanks everyone. 

And as always, if we weren’t able to get to you, please reach out to our distro and I’ll try to get back to as soon as possible. 


6:31 P.M. EDT

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