President Joe Biden on Friday ignored questions from the press about a phone call he had with the families of the 14 Americans missing in Israel as he departed the White House on his way to Philadelphia.
The White House said Biden earlier in the day participated in a call with the families of the 14 Americans missing in Israel, seven days after Hamas launched terrorist attacks in the country on Saturday, killing more than 1,300.
The White House told reporters:
President Biden participated in a call with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, Undersecretary of State John Bass, National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk, and family members of the 14 Americans still unaccounted for following this week’s horrific attacks on Israel.
Officials have said Israel Defense Forces are in the lead on hostage recovery, although the U.S. is assisting with a team of experts and will provide any necessary support. Biden administration officials have said they do not know how many American hostages are being held by Hamas. At least 27 Americans have been killed.
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In addition, on Thursday, there were reportedly as many as 600 Americans trapped in Gaza, as Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza commences. The White House said Thursday they were aware there were limited commercial flights from Israel and were sending charter planes for Americans who wish to return to the U.S. but could not travel commercially.
Asked if the U.S. was considering a prisoner swap with Hamas, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said, “We obviously take seriously our responsibilities to get Americans held overseas back with their families. We have, in the past, entered into negotiations to do exactly that. And we have not foreclosed any option right now in terms of these particular hostages.”
Earlier this week, a senior Hamas official suggested that the group wanted to carry out a prisoner swap with the U.S., pointing to the Biden administration’s recent deal with Iran to unfreeze $6 billion in frozen assets and release five Iranians in exchange for five Americans being held in Iran.
“There are also prisoners in the U.S. We want them. Of course. There are Hamas members sentenced for life in the U.S. We want them too. Of course. We demand that the U.S. free our sons from prisons. The U.S. conducts prisoner swaps. Only recently, it did one with Iran. Why wouldn’t it conduct a prisoner swap with us? After all, it is participating in this war,” senior Hamas official Ali Baraka told Russia Today, according to MEMRI.