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U.S. provided support to Israeli forces in rescue of 4 hostages in Gaza

4 hostages rescued by Israeli forces in Gaza
4 hostages rescued by Israeli forces in Gaza operation 03:16

The United States provided support to the successful Israeli security forces raid that rescued four living hostages from captivity in Gaza on Saturday, two U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News. The U.S. military did not participate in the operation, a U.S. official said.

In a statement issued by the White House, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan congratulated Israeli security forces on the successful operation and made an oblique reference to U.S. support for all efforts to release hostages still held by Hamas including through "ongoing negotiations or other means."

CBS News learned on Saturday that the U.S. role came mainly in the form of intelligence support. Two U.S. officials confirmed that, but declined to share sensitive details regarding the operation. One Israeli special operator lost his life in the rescue operation, and nearly 100 Palestinians were killed.

The Biden administration has had a major effort underway since Oct. 7 providing support to Israel on hostage issues including diplomatic, intelligence and, at times, military support. The U.S. has previously acknowledged providing overhead surveillance support to help locate hostages.

Video circulating online Saturday shows an IDF helicopter taking off from the beach with the U.S. pier in the backdrop. Two U.S. officials told CBS News that the U.S. pier was not used in the IDF operation. It is offshore to assist delivery of humanitarian aid. A U.S. official explained that the helicopter landed south of the facility on a beach but not within the cordoned area of the pier.

"The pier facility was not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza. An area south of the facility was used to safely return the hostages to Israel," a U.S. official said. "Any such claim to the contrary is false.  The temporary pier on the coast of Gaza was put in place for one purpose only, to help get more urgently needed lifesaving assistance into Gaza."

In a statement later Saturday, U.S. Central Command reiterated that "pier facility, including its equipment, personnel, and assets were not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza."

And in a separate statement Saturday night, CENTCOM said that it had resumed delivery of humanitarian aid via the pier, which had broken apart nearly two weeks ago in rough seas. Repairs were completed Friday and the pier was reconnected. CENTCOM said that about 1.1 million pounds of aid were delivered Saturday via the pier. 

Diplomatic efforts are still underway to negotiate the release of the remaining hostages, including five unaccounted-for U.S. citizens.

As of Saturday, Hamas commander Yahya Sinwar had not yet officially responded to the latest offer to bundle a release of the most vulnerable hostages along with a release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli detention facilities along with a surge of humanitarian relief during a six-week-long cessation of violence. The Biden administration is hopeful that the cessation could be extended into a longer-term ceasefire and ultimately an end to the war.

Three officials with knowledge of the talks told CBS News that a sticking point in the negotiations up to this point has been the reference to a "permanent ceasefire" which is politically sensitive in Israel and is now being rebranded as a "sustainable calm." A permanent end to hostilities would be considered part of Phase Two of a potential deal, and details would need to still be agreed upon based on the success of Phase One.

Among the hostages believed to be held in Gaza are five unaccounted-for U.S. citizens as well as the remains of three other American citizens.

David Martin, Clarie Day, Olivia Gazis and Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.

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