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17 of 20 American doctors in Gaza made it out of the besieged enclave, White House says

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby told reporters Friday that those from the selected group who wanted to leave, have now been able to depart Gaza.
White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby
Posted at 7:00 PM, May 17, 2024

Seventeen of 20 American doctors treating patients amid the destruction and war in Gaza have made it out of the besieged enclave alive as Israel's army continues its conflict with Hamas targets. White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby told reporters Friday that those in the group who wanted to leave were able to do so.

Kirby said on Friday, "they came out today, all 17, they wanted to leave."

He said, "I won't speak for the other three, but I can assure you that any of them that wanted to leave are out now."

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When asked if the discovery of 3 bodies of hostages found in Gaza would have any effect on cease-fire negotiations, Kirby said, "I don't think we can say that right now."

On Friday the Israeli military said IDF troops found the bodies and identified them as hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The bodies included that of German-Israeli Shani Louk, as well as a 28-year-old woman named Amit Buskila, and of a 56-year-old man named Itzhak Gelerenter.

"First of all our focus, and I'm sure our Israeli counterpart's focus too, is on the families who are getting this horrible news," Kirby told reporters on Friday.

On the cease-fire and the hostage negotiations, Kirby said, "As you know the talks just didn't get anywhere last week, unfortunately we just didn't get to a successful conclusion."

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He said, "One of the things that Jake [Sullivan, White House National Security Advisor] wants to cover when he gets over there, back to the region, is to see what we can do to keep those talks going and get some kind of resolution here."

Sullivan plans to travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel over the coming days to negotiate amid talks over the Israeli military operation into Rafah, U.S. officials told Axios.

But, Kirby said, "it's difficult to see how this grim news today is going to have a major effect on the hostage negotiations."

"We really want to get this done so that we can get six weeks of a cease-fire, that can maybe lead to something more enduring," Kirby said.

As Reuters reported on Friday, the American doctors who made it out of Gaza were part of a group of U.S. medical workers who had been unable to leave Gaza after Israel closed the Rafah border crossing. Ten of the medical workers were members of the U.S.-based Palestinian American Medical Association. They had previously planned to leave after a two-week mission at the European Hospital in Khan Younis.