White House helping Americans depart Israel as death toll rises to at least 27

October 12, 2023

National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby said Thursday that the number of Americans killed amid the Israel-Hamas war had risen to 27. 

“I’ll start with the saddest of news. We can now update the number of Americans that have been killed to 27,” Kirby said during the daily White House press briefing, “and the number of unaccounted for stands today at 14.”

The American death toll had risen from a previous Thursday morning count of 25, while the number of Americans unaccounted for had decreased from 17.

“We’re obviously doing everything we can to support and inform the families” of those killed, Kirby added, noting that several more “have now gotten the worst possible news that any family can conceive of getting. And we’re going to stay in touch with them as appropriate.” 

He added that the same would go for the family members of those who are unaccounted for. 

“And by ‘unaccounted for,’ we mean that,” Kirby stressed. “We don’t know where they are. [The families] don’t know where they are, so we are going to obviously stay in touch with them as well, and certainly we are continuing to work with Israeli officials to make sure that we’re getting as much context and information as possible.”

He further touched upon the limited availability of commercial flights out of Israel and the demand of Americans who may want to depart, saying that President Biden has asked his team to make sure that U.S. citizens who do want to leave Israel are provided with a safe means of doing so.

“So beginning tomorrow, the United States will arrange charter flights [for] transportation from Israel to sites in Europe,” Kirby said. “We’re still working through some of the details of that to assist U.S. citizens and their immediate family members who have, for whatever reason, not been able to provide commercial transit out of the country.”

He said the Biden Administration was also exploring other options to expand the capacity of transporting Americans out of Israel, “including exploring whether it’s possible to help Americans leave by land and by sea.”

Kirby conceded that he had no hard figures on how many Americans want to leave, but he said, “I would encourage any American citizen in need of assistance to please complete the intake form that you can find on travel.state.gov.”

“It helps the State Department process the request,” Kirby explained. “It also helps us get a sense of what the scope of the need is.” 

PHOTO: John Kirby, White House press briefing Thursday

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