President Joe Biden on Friday provided an update on the release of hostages from Gaza while on vacation with his family in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
He welcomed the release of 24 hostages, including 13 Israelis, as part of a temporary cease-fire negotiated on Nov. 21 between Hamas and Israel. There were no Americans among the first group released. The president did, however, reaffirm his commitment to working for the release of the remaining hostages, including a dozen Americans.
“This morning, I’ve been engaged with my team as we began the first difficult days of implementing this deal. It’s only a start, but so far, it’s gone well,” President Biden said.
Hamas has started to release the first group of hostages on Friday as part of a 4-day truce. In return for 39 Palestinian prisoners, the terrorist organization freed 24 people who had been held captive in Gaza for 50 days. Among the hostages released on Friday were 13 Israelis, 10 Thais, and one Filipino.
The deal calls for the release of at least 50 of the nearly 240 hostages, exclusively women and children, over four days, during which there will be a halt to the fighting.
According to President Biden, three Americans were anticipated to be released as part of the first group, including “two American women and one 4-year-old child, Abigail, who remains among those missing.”
President Biden said that he did not know when the American hostages would be released but noted that it was anticipated they would be released at some point.
He said the administration doesn’t have the complete list of hostages and their exact release dates.
“But in the next hour or so, we'll know what the second wave of releases are,” he said.
When asked if he knew if they were alive or what their circumstances were, Biden replied, “We don’t know their conditions.”
There were an estimated 236 hostages taken to Gaza by Hamas terrorists after their deadly cross-border attack on Israelis on Oct. 7, which sparked the war. Nearly a dozen U.S. citizens were thought to be among the hostages.
The truce deal includes the release of 150 Palestinian detainees—also all women and children—from Israeli prisons. Additionally, the deal stipulates that the four-day pause in fighting will allow for an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza.
An additional “day of respite” would be provided for more captives released beyond 50, according to an earlier announcement by the Israeli government.
The deal was the result of weeks of extensive negotiations involving the United States, Qatar, Egypt, Hamas, and Israel.
“Today has been the product of a lot of hard work and weeks of personal engagement. From the moment Hamas kidnapped these people, I along with my team have worked around the clock to secure their release. We saw the first results of this ever with the release of two American hostages in late October, followed by the release of two Israeli hostages,” President Biden said.
“I’ve consistently pressed for a pause in the fighting for two reasons: to accelerate and expand humanitarian assistance going into Gaza and to facilitate the release of hostages. Over the past several weeks, I’ve spoken repeatedly with the Emir of Qatar, President Sisi of Egypt, and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel to help secure this deal and nail it down.”