Biden meets with families of Americans held hostage by Hamas

President Joe Biden on Wednesday morning privately met with the families of Americans being held hostage by Hamas since the terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

The family members of eight Americans believed to be held hostage participated in the meeting in person. They included Yael and Adi Alexander; Ruby and Roy Chen; Ronen and Orna Neutra; Gillian Kaye; Jonathan Dekel-Chen; Aviva, Elan, Shir and Hanna Siegel; and Liz Naftali. Jon Polin, Rachel Goldberg and Iris Haggai joined by phone.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer also attended the meeting.

Biden has held calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, with the aim of securing the release of Americans and all hostages held by Hamas.

The diplomatic efforts of the United States have helped secure the release of more than 100 hostages, including four Americans: Natalie and Judith Raanan who were released Oct. 20 after extensive diplomacy by the administration; 4-year-old Abigail Eden, whose parents were killed by Hamas and whose mother is American, was released Nov. 26; and Liat Beinin, a high school teacher and a tour guide for Israel’s Holocaust Museum, was released on Nov. 29. 

Eight Americans have been deemed as still “unaccounted for” since the fighting began, including those being held hostage, the White House official said. One of those is a woman who sought release under a previous deal with Hamas, but the deal collapsed when the militant group did not release the additional women they were holding.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will discuss the hostages during his travel to Israel this week. He has met with the families multiple times, most recently last month, the White House official said.

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff also met with the families on Oct. 27.

Biden’s meeting Wednesday with the families of the hostages marks his first in-person meeting with them after he previously spoke with them over Zoom in mid-October.

Biden’s meeting with the families comes a day after he offered his harshest criticism yet of Israel’s right-wing government since the Oct. 7 attack, saying Netanyahu has a “tough decision to make.”

“I think he has to change, and with this government, this government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” Biden said during an off-camera campaign reception in Washington on Tuesday afternoon.

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