President Biden on Wednesday met with families of some of the eight Americans believed to be held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
The meeting was the first in-person conversation with the President since their family members were believed to be taken captive during Hamas’ massive October 7 terrorist attack in Israel, though Biden had previously met with some family members virtually or spoke with them over the phone.
Of the initial 240 people abducted by Hamas, about 140 are still believed to be held captive in Gaza, including the eight Americans.
Three Americans, including 4-year-old Abigail Mor Edan, were released in late November during a roughly week-long Israel-Hamas cease-fire deal, though Biden at the time had pressed to incorporate the remaining Americans in those negotiated exchanges that included Israel handing over some 150 Palestinian prisoners and increased humanitarian aid being allowed into Gaza.
One American woman who was supposed to be released by Hamas under the cease-fire remains unaccounted for—a development that contributed to ending the truce.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer joined Biden at Wednesday’s meeting. Thirteen family members attended in person while three others joined by phone, according to the White House.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Biden planned to “guarantee [the families] that we are not going to lose sight of their loved ones, we’re not going to stop trying to get them home.”
Kirby further stressed that U.S. officials are “trying to get more information about the [missing Americans] and to get a deal in place where we can get them back home.”