American military advisers are on the ground in Israel consulting with Israeli Defense Forces leaders about rescuing Americans and other hostages being held in Gaza, where Hamas militants took captured civilians following Saturday’s attacks on Israel, a senior defense official confirmed to reporters on Thursday. There is currently no plan to send in American special operations units to help, the official added.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday confirmed that Americans are among hostages taken by Hamas, though the White House has not given an estimate of the number of hostages beyond calling it “less than a handful.”

“There are personnel on the ground as part of a larger assistance package in support of [U.S. Central Command],” the Pentagon official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the Israel situation, told reporters. “And that includes military personnel advising and consulting on hostage recovery efforts.”

The official did not confirm whether those advisers are from Joint Special Operations Command, the wing of U.S. Special Operations Command that deploys specialized units like the Army’s Delta Force or the Navy’s SEAL Team 6.

Regardless, U.S. troops will not be involved in any direct action, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed during a press conference Thursday.

“The Israelis have made it very clear that they don’t want foreign troops on their soil, that they want to prosecute these operations on their own,” he said. “The Israelis have made it clear that they would not welcome [foreign involvement] in any event.”

Asked whether the U.S. might negotiate an exchange with Hamas for American hostages, Kirby said he would not comment on current efforts.

“What I will tell you, just broadly speaking, is we obviously take seriously our responsibility to get Americans held overseas back with their families,” he said. “We have, in the past, entered into negotiations to do exactly that.”

All options are still on the table, he added.

“Obviously ... if their return to their families can be arrived in a peaceful way without additional risk to their lives [posed by a military operation], that is certainly something we would take very, very seriously,” Kirby said.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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