National security adviser defends Israel’s efforts to defeat Hamas

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U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan defended Israel’s campaign against Hamas on Sunday, amid mounting criticism of the Israeli military’s deadly siege of Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack.

“What a lot of people are calling for is just a stop to Israeli military action against terrorists period. Just stop, no more, Israel cannot go after terrorists who conducted this largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust,” Sullivan said during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We have taken the position that Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorist attacks.”

Hamas launched its attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing over 1,400 people and seizing more than 200 hostages; it has continued to launch rocket attacks. Israel has retaliated with daily airstrikes and a siege of Gaza, where more than two million people live. Israeli strikes had knocked out most internet and phone connectivity in Gaza late earlier in the week, but communications had been restored for many by Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

As of Sunday, the Palestinian death toll passed 8,000, most of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, the Associated Press reported. In the occupied West Bank, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids.

Several U.S. leaders have called for a pause in fighting to allow for humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza. But on Sunday, Sullivan warned that any pause in fighting would benefit Hamas.

“That’s a reality. There are a lot of complicated realities. A humanitarian pause would be a good thing to get hostages out, but you can bet that Hamas will try to use that time to their advantage as well. These are the things that Israel was trying to grapple with,” Sullivan said, adding the U.S. was pressing Israeli leaders to “make sure to distinguish between Hamas and the Palestinian people who Hamas does not represent.”

Israeli Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel has sent more troops into the Gaza Strip.

“The ground operations in the northern Gaza Strip continue,” Hagari said. “We are progressing through the stages of the war according to plan. We are gradually expanding the ground activity and the scope of our forces in the Gaza Strip.”

Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.

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