WASHINGTON, March 28 (UPI) -- The White House says it is monitoring a hunger strike at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantanamo, Cuba, where the U.S. Navy confirmed 33 detainees are participating.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday President Barack Obama remains "committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Progress has been made under this and the previous administration. But given the legislation that Congress has put in place, it's clear it's going to take some time."
Earnest's comments are believed to be the administration's first public remarks on the hunger strike since it was first reported, The Miami Herald said.
Navy Capt. Robert Durand said Thursday medical staff at the detention center had determined 33 detainees were refusing to eat, with 11 of them being fed through tubes and three in the hospital, the Herald said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross sent representatives to Guantanamo this week and a larger delegation is scheduled to visit the facility next week, the newspaper said.
ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno said the Red Cross -- which opposes forced feeding -- is not taking "a public position on the causes and goals of the hunger strike" and will not become involved in "any negotiations between detainees and prison authorities."
However, Schorno said the agency's medical staff will advise detainees regarding the health implications of a hunger strike and will advise Guantanamo authorities of "ethical issues and applicable standards."