Biden says that Hamas should release hostages before any ceasefire

President responds to question from The Independent’s White House correspondent Andrew Feinberg on Hamas’ release of two hostages and the possibility of a ceasefire

Graeme Massie,Andrew Feinberg
Monday 23 October 2023 15:35 EDT

Biden says hostages should be released before ceasefire deal

Joe Biden says that Hamas should release the hostages it kidnapped in its bloody attack on Israel before any ceasefire in the bombardment of Gaza is implemented.

The president made his stance clear at an event on Monday in response to a question from Andrew Feinberg, the White House correspondent of The Independent.

“We should get... We should have a ceasefire, not a ceasefire... we should have these hostages released and then we can talk,” said Mr Biden in response to Feinberg’s question.

Mr Biden was speaking at an event on the economy at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex. His comments came as Hamas said it had released two elderly Israeli hostages, following Qatari-Egyptian mediation.

The release of the two hostages, 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz and 79-year-old Nurit Cooper, was confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Hamas and other militants in Gaza are believed to have taken roughly 220 people, including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual nationals.

The group’s attacks on 7 October killed more than 1,400 Israelis while more than 5,100 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombardments and airstrikes.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event on the economy, from the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex

Two US-Israeli dual citizens who were kidnapped by Hamas earlier this month were released on 20 October.

Judith Ranaan, 59, and her daughter Natalie Raanan, 17, signified a breakthrough in the crisis as US officials seek the release of roughly 200 other hostages from 40 countries including 10 Americans who remain unaccounted for, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The Biden administration said that its top priority remains the release of American hostages. The president has previously spoken with families of Americans believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas after the group’s attacks that killed hundreds.

Natalie Shoshana Raanan, left, and Judith Tai Raanan speaking to President Biden after their release

Mr Biden also spent several hours speaking with families of Israeli hostages and families of victims during his visit to Israel on Wednesday.

“We will not stop until we get their loved ones home,” Mr Biden said in a statement last week. “I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans held hostage around the world.”

Secretary Blinken said on Friday that “the urgent work to free every single American, to free all other hostages, continues, as does our work to secure the safe passage out of Gaza for the Americans who are trapped there”.

The Biden administration deployed longtime state department official Steven Gillen to lead hostage recovery efforts from Israel.

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