Former Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Sunday that the U.S. should send FBI and U.S. special operators to Israel to assist with rescuing Hamas’s Israeli hostages, and that the U.S. military should be dispatched to recover any Americans.
“It’s not putting the U.S. in the war, but we do have to be prepared to rescue Americans who are taken hostage by terrorist organizations,” O’Brien, who remains a key foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump and other Republicans, told Semafor in an interview on Sunday. “We need to get our special operators and our law enforcement on the ground immediately to save these Americans.”
Reacting to reports that U.S. citizens may be among those taken by Hamas, O’Brien said: “I would hope that the guys out of Dam Neck and Fort Bragg would be wheels up already on their way to Israel to help rescue our American hostages.”
O’Brien, who also served as U.S. special envoy for hostage affairs under the Trump administration, said that the Biden administration should threaten to use military force to secure the release of any Americans.
“We ought to tell the Iranians and Hamas, if the American hostages aren’t released in 12 hours, they’re not just going to be dealing with the Israelis, they’re going to be dealing with us,” he said.
O’Brien said that all options should be on the table, including “military force if they don’t release the Americans immediately.”
The Biden administration is investigating reports of American citizens being among those taken from Israel in the Hamas attack over the weekend.
“We have reports that several Americans may be among the dead,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on NBC News Sunday morning. “We are very actively working to verify those reports. Similarly, we have seen reports about hostages and there again, we are very actively trying to verify them and nail that down.”
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said on CBS News Sunday morning that it is his understanding that Americans are among the hostages but that he didn’t have specific details on the number. Tal Naim, a spokeswoman for Israel’s embassy in the U.S., said only that other foreign citizens were among those taken hostage and that Israeli police and military are still working to determine the number and identities of those missing.
“It’s still the fog of war,” she told Semafor on Sunday.
The U.S. government is weighing how to respond to the attack by the militant group Hamas in Israel over the weekend that left hundreds dead and thousands injured. Israel formally declared war, paving the way for the country to escalate its military campaign against Hamas.
The Pentagon announced Sunday that it would move a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and other military vessels and aircraft closer to Israel. During a call with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday morning, President Joe Biden said that the U.S. was sending more assistance for the Israeli Defense Forces, according to a White House readout.
NBC News is also reporting that the U.S. is laying plans for a “possible non-combatant evacuation” of Americans from Israel.
O’Brien told Semafor that the U.S. should give Israel “every weapons system, all of the technology they need to discover every tunnel, to destroy every tunnel in Gaza, to rescue the hostages and destroy Hamas.”
“Whatever the Israelis ask for, we should double it and get it to them yesterday,” he said.
- Hamas believes that by holding dozens of Israeli hostages, it could help force the government to release Palestinian prisoners, Anshel Pfeffer from Haaretz writes on X.
- One of the biggest dilemmas facing Israel is how to weaken Hamas’ influence on the Gaza Strip, Daniel Byman and Alexander Palmer from the Center for Strategic and International Studies write in Foreign Affairs.
- Republicans in Washington face new pressure to elect a U.S. House speaker after Israel declared war, Joey Roulette and David Morgan report for Reuters.