“We should have those hostages released and then we can talk,” President Joe Biden said Monday as two more hostages were let go by Hamas amid further rising tensions and deaths in the Middle East.
Speaking at a D.C. event to announce an investment in regional tech hubs and to discuss the economy, Biden’s remark came in response to a reporter’s question about whether the U.S. supports a “hostages for ceasefire deal” in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
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The release today of Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, now confirmed by the Israeli government, dominated coverage on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and BBC World News today. Seen online, Biden’s speech and comments were not covered live – unlike a press briefing earlier in the day by National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
While not mentioning the hostages specifically, Biden cut short his remarks as news of their release spread. “I apologize, I have to go to the Situation Room with another issue that I have to deal with,” the president said, before quickly exiting the conference. There were also drone attacks on US forces in Syria and Iraq today, with minor consequences, it seems.
The freeing of the two women comes less than 72 hours after Israeli-Americans Judith and Natalie Raanan were let go.
On October 7, Hamas terrorists swarmed Israeli border towns and military camps killing and kidnapping up to 1,400 people and abducting dozens of others including many with dual citizenship. At least 10 Americans are still “unaccounted” for, Kirby told Fox News this afternoon.
Showing up on MSNBC’s Deadline: White House after appearing on Fox, Kirby called one of the battles emerging out of this latest conflict in the Middle East a “battle of the narrative.”
Both hostage-release cases appeared to involve the Red Cross and Arab states mediating the process with Hamas. Strong American support of Israel, behind-the-scenes moves by Secretary of State Tony Blinken and the growing presence of U.S. military forces has put the terrorist organization on notice of the importance the Biden administration puts on seeing the more than 200 people taken hostage set free, especially the Americans among them.
Postponed for almost an hour after its 11:15 a.m. PT start as news of the latest hostage release broke, Biden’s brief remarks came as he delivered a speech and participated in a conference on his economic policy, the self-described Bidenomics.
Today’s hostage release also follows a joint statement that came out from the White House over the weekend as Biden, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the UK released a joint statement reiterating “their support for Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism and called for adherence to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.”
Ready for the past several days with hundreds of thousands of troops on the border, Israel’s much expected ground invasion of Gaza had been delayed, reportedly at the private request of Biden, in order to seek the release of more hostages. Israel has been conducting hundreds of airstrikes against targets in Gaza over the past two weeks. A mass evacuation of Gaza City is underway in anticipation of the IDF moving in as the humanitarian crisis has exploded, with thousands of Palestinians killed and many more injured.
Last week, POTUS requested $106 billion aid package to help Israel, Ukraine’s battle against Russia and U.S. border security in a rare speech from the Oval Office. Senate Republicans like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have backed the package, but with the House of Representatives still without a Speaker the past two weeks due to GOP infighting, the proposal has not moved forward.
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