Biden abruptly ends Middle East remarks to go to Situation Room

The precise reason for the Mr Biden’s departure was not made clear

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Monday 23 October 2023 23:02 BST
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Biden says hostages should be released before ceasefire deal

President Joe Biden abruptly ended a White House press conference by telling reporters he was heading to the Situation Room for “another issue I have to deal with”.

The president exited the stage at the event on the economy at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, amid reports that Hamas had released two further hostages.

The precise reason for the Mr Biden’s departure was not made clear, but it comes amid reports of an increase of attacks against US forces in Syria and Iraq by Iran-backed militias in both countries.

Tensions continue to rise across the Middle East caused by Israel’s bombardment and looming ground invasion of Gaza.

“I apologise, I have to go to the Situation Room for another issue I have to deal with,” Mr Biden said.

During his remarks the president said that Hamas should release the hostages it has kidnapped in its attack on Israel before any ceasefire in the bombardment of Gaza is implemented.

Meanwhile the release of two elderly Israeli hostages – 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz and 79-year-old Nurit Cooper – following Qatari-Egyptian mediation, was confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.
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, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP)

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

On Friday, the group released its first two hostages – Judith Ranaan, 59, and her daughter Natalie Raanan, 17, – marking a significant breakthrough in the conflict.

More than 1,400 Israelis were killed during Hamas surprise attacks on October 7, while some 5,100 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombardments and airstrikes.

Mr Biden said he was “overjoyed” following the release of the Ranaan’s and has previously said that the safe return of hostages taken by Hamas remains his adminstration’s top priority.

“Our fellow citizens have endured a terrible ordeal these past 14 days, and I am overjoyed that they will soon be reunited with their family, who has been wracked with fear,” he said.

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