Jake Sullivan: It’s ‘hard to say’ how Israeli hostage rescue will impact cease-fire negotiations

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said it is “hard to say” if the recent Israeli operation to rescue four hostages in Gaza will influence ongoing cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

The Israeli military, along with two other units, carried out a special operation on Saturday at two different locations in Nuseirat in central Gaza to rescue four hostages being held by Hamas. The operation, which included a heavy air and ground assault, marked Israel’s largest rescue operation since its war with Hamas began last October.

The operation, which the Gaza Healthy Ministry claimed left more than 274 Palestinians dead, came just over a week since President Biden announced an Israeli-proposed cease-fire and hostage release deal aimed at ending the war.

When asked on ABC News’s “This Week” if the operation or similar operations affect cease-fire negotiations, Sullivan said, “It’s really hard to say right now.”

“It’s hard to say how Hamas will process this particular operation and what it will do to its determination about whether it will say yes or not,” he added. “We have not gotten a formal answer from Hamas at this time. We’re waiting for them to communicate to Qatar and Egypt, two of the mediators involved in the hostage negotiations. “

While Gaza health officials approximated the death toll to be at least 274 killed and nearly 700 others wounded in the Saturday mission, the Israeli military estimated fewer than 100 casualties.

Sullivan declined to confirm either party’s numbers.

“Well, of course, the Israel Defense Forces have put out one number, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has put out another number. We’re looking into it,” Sullivan said. “It will take some time for us to make any kind of determination. And we may never be able to definitively determine it.”

“Civilians were killed. And that is tragic. It is heartbreaking. I’ve said before that the Palestinian people are going through hell in this war,” he added. “They’re caught in the crossfire. Hamas hides among civilian infrastructure, hides underground, and puts the Palestinian people in harm’s way. And this whole thing, this whole tragedy could be over, all the hostages could be home.”

The current cease-fire proposal under consideration includes a three-part road map to end the fighting and release the remaining hostages.

Sullivan, speaking on several of the Sunday morning shows, repeatedly called on Hamas to respond to the proposal.

Last week, the leaders of 18 countries with citizens held as hostages issued a joint statement urging Hamas and Israel to agree to the cease-fire proposal.

“There is no time to lose. We call on Hamas to close this agreement, that Israel is ready to move forward with, and begin the process of releasing our citizens,” the statement read.

Israel’s war with Hamas has raged on for more than eight months since the U.S.-designated terrorist organization launched a surprise assault on southern Israel, during which the group killed more than 1,200 people and took about 250 others hostage.

Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza has since killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, per the local health ministry.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.