The White House on Monday confirmed that possibly nine American hostages were still being held by Hamas.
“Well, it’s less than ten. Probably in the neighborhood of, you know, about eight to nine. But we don’t necessarily have firm, solid information on each and every one of them,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said during the White House press briefing on Monday.
Kirby’s statement came one day after the youngest American taken hostage by Hamas, 4-year-old Abigail Mor Edan, and two other Americans were among 17 freed on Sunday. They have so far been the only Americans released among 50 agreed to in an initial Israel-Hamas cease-fire deal.
President Biden wants the remaining Americans to be included in a new round of hostage releases, agreed to by Hamas in exchange for Israel extending the initial four-day truce by two extra days, until Wednesday.
On Monday, Kirby suggested that Biden’s hand in negotiations—with calls to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al Thani of Qatar, which has helped to broker the deals—has been key to moving forward the fragile peace process in the Middle East.
“The President understands that there’s strong feelings on multiple sides,” Kirby said. “He also believes right down to his core, that the approach we’ve been taking has been getting results.”
Israeli leaders, though, have been playing down any talks of a lasting halt in the fighting, with Netanyahu saying, “We continue until the end—until victory.”