President Joe Biden said Monday tamped down calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, telling Hamas to release the hostages its militants took captive from Israel – ‘then we’ll talk.’
He made the remark at the White House moments after reports that Hamas had released two hostages held inside Gaza after the Oct. 7 terror attack, bringing the total released to four.
He was asked about having hostages released for a ceasefire at the tail end of an event on his economic agenda.
‘We should have those hostages released, then we’ll talk,’ Biden responded.
President Joe Biden called on Hamas to release hostages when asked about a ceasefire
Israel is demanding the release of all of the estimated 200 hostages seized during the cross-border raid by Hamas fighters. It has called up reserves and massed forces on the border, while pounding targets inside Gaza.
Biden ended his remarks, at a an event meant to tout his ‘Bidenomics’ agenda, by referencing a national security development.
‘I apologize, I have to go to the Situation Room for another issue I have to deal with,’ he said.
His event began nearly an hour after the scheduled start time Monday following the first news reports of the release of an additional pair of hostages.
Hamas released two American terrorists last week as the Biden administration negotiated to help secure the first convoy of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
The president spoke as protesters have called for a cease fire, while some ‘squad’ members have accused both Hamas and the Israeli government of ‘war crimes.’
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said repeatedly Monday that the administration’s objective was to get Israel the tools it needs, while getting aid to Palestinian people inside Gaza and secure the release of hostages.
The latest figure for Americans still unaccounted for after October 7 is ten, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Kirby repeated that number Monday. He said the number of Americans believed to be held captive is still ‘about a handful.’
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza, 20 October 2023. Biden called for the release of hostages when asked about a cease fire
Biden called for the release of additional hostages days after the release of Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan. They are among an estimated 200 hostages seized by Hamas fighters during a brazen attack inside Israel
Hamas announced the release of two elderly Israeli hostages Monday
At the briefing, he was asked about a call by UN agencies for a ‘humanitarian cease fire.’
‘What we want right now is make sure Israel has the tools it needs to defend itself and to go after Hamas. And that humanitarian assistance keeps flowing. Now it’s started and it’s a good thing. We want to keep it going and keep it sustainable. That’s what we’re focused on.
He didn’t answer directly when asked if Israel was abiding by international law. President Biden has repeatedly said the U.S. has Israel’s back, while also speaking publicly about the importance of democracies following the rules of war.
‘We’re not going to parcel out each and every event that happens on the battlefield, especially since we’re not there,’ said Kirby. ‘I can just tell you that there hasn’t been a conversation that we’ve had with Israeli counterparts – and we’ve had them at all levels – where we aren’t talking about not just what they want to do, but how they want to do it,’ Kirby said.
Biden was also asked about his conversation with Pope Francis. According to the Holy See the two spoke for 20 minutes Sunday about ‘the need to identify paths to peace.’
‘The pope and I are on the same page,’ said Biden. He said the Pope was ‘very interested’ in the crises we are facing, including in Israel.
Biden said he ‘laid out to him what the game plan was,’ including providing assistance that Israel needed.
‘The pope was across the board supportive,’ Biden said.
According to an official White House readout released Sunday, Biden ‘condemned the barbarous attack by Hamas against Israeli civilians, affirmed the need to protect civilians in Gaza, and discussed his efforts to ensure delivery of food and medicine into Gaza, as well as the need to ‘prevent escalation’ and work toward ‘durable peace.’