President Joe Biden on Wednesday held his first in-person meeting with the families of eight Americans still unaccounted for and presumed to be taken captive by Hamas during its brutal Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the White House said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer joined Biden for the meeting. Thirteen of the family members attended the meeting in person, while three others joined the conversation with the president and his advisers by phone, according to the White House.
The Democratic president has previously met with some family members virtually and spoken to others on the phone. Biden was set to provide an update on American efforts to secure the release of those held by Hamas.
"He'll guarantee them that we are not going to lose sight of their loved ones, we're not going to stop trying to get them home," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on CNN as he previewed Biden's message to the families. Kirby stressed that hourly, U.S. officials are "trying to get more information about them and to get a deal in place where we can get them back home."
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a statement urging Congress to pass his national security supplemental from the Roosevelt Room at the White House on December 06, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Biden’s meeting with the families of hostages comes as his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is headed to Israel on Thursday and Friday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, members of his war cabinet, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
The eight Americans remain unaccounted for after Hamas’ surprise air, sea and land incursion into Israeli towns, where the group killed about 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took more than 240 people hostage. The White House has said that at least 31 Americans were killed by Hamas and other militant groups on Oct. 7.
One American woman was supposed to be released by Hamas under the terms of last month’s cease-fire, but she remains unaccounted for — a development that contributed to the end of the temporary pause in the fighting.