The Biden administration’s efforts to free American hostages trapped in Gaza is reportedly accelerating because of concerns about a ground invasion.
The thinking is that if and when Israel’s planned ground invasion of Gaza begins, the chances of being able to save the hostages will drop precariously low.
That said, the current race to save the remaining hostages “is challenged by a host of factors, according to diplomats, officials working on the hostage process and other people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a fragile and anxious process,” The Washington Post reported Friday.
For one, the administration isn’t even certain how many hostages there are, in part because at least 10 Americans remain unaccounted for, meaning they may already be dead but simply haven’t been identified yet.
“Israel has not yet identified the remains of all the people killed in the initial Hamas assault,” the Post notes.
But as indicated earlier, the biggest factor impeding rescue efforts is a potential ground invasion. The administration is concerned “that once Israel invades, talks will collapse and consideration of the hostages will fall by the wayside,” according to the Post.
And so, when asked by reporters on Friday about whether the ground invasion should be delayed, President Joe Biden emphatically said “yes.”
Biden, who got to use the big stairs to board AF1 tonight, says “yes” when asked if Israel should delay its ground invasion.
He is now heading off to the beach. pic.twitter.com/kJYA09QNQY
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 21, 2023
However, the White House later backtracked by claiming the president had misheard the question and was instead just indicating that he wanted more hostages released.
Joe Biden: We want Israel to postpone its ground invasion until more hostages are released
White House: Biden didn’t link the invasion with hostage release.
This is a mess. What is going on? pic.twitter.com/rmXmnlqEaY
— DD Geopolitics (@DD_Geopolitics) October 21, 2023
“The urgent work to free every single American, to free all other hostages continues, as does our work to secure the safe passage out of Gaza for the Americans who are trapped there,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in his own statement.
Thus far, only two hostages have been released: Judith and Natalie Raanan.
“The US citizens were handed over at the border with Gaza and are now in the care of the Israel Defense Forces, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said on Friday. They are currently on their way to an Israeli military base to be reunited with family, according to the office for Israel’s prime minister,” CNN reported.
“The Raanans are from Chicago and had been visiting relatives in Nahal Oz, a farming community in southern Israel, when they were taken hostage on October 7, according to their family,” as reported by CNN.
The Post notes that their freeing was “a major breakthrough in the tense, complicated work led by a team from the State Department, FBI and intelligence community.”
The president responded to their release by issuing a statement.
“Today, we have secured the release of two Americans taken hostage by Hamas during the horrific terrorist assault against Israel on October 7. Our fellow citizens have endured a terrible ordeal these past 14 days, and I am overjoyed that they will soon be reunited with their family, who has been wracked with fear. These individuals and their family will have the full support of the United States government as they recover and heal, and we should all respect their privacy in this moment,” the statement reads.
“From the earliest moments of this attack, we have been working around-the-clock to free American citizens who were taken hostage by Hamas, and we have not ceased our efforts to secure the release of those who are still being held. I thank the government of Qatar and the government of Israel for their partnership in this work. Jill and I have been holding close in our hearts all the families of unaccounted for Americans. And, as I told those families when I spoke with them last week—we will not stop until we get their loved ones home. As president, I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans held hostage around the world,” it continues.
.@POTUS: “We have secured the release of two Americans taken hostage by Hamas during the horrific terrorist assault”
“We have been working around-the-clock to free American citizens”
I told families we “will not stop until we get their loved ones home.” https://t.co/mqYKHNCP6U
— Andrew Bates (@AndrewJBates46) October 20, 2023
Complicating any additional rescues is the fact that the hostages are not all in one location. Although Hamas is one group, it contains subgroups, and according to the Post, the hostages are divided among these subgroups.
“Hamas itself claims not to have a full picture of all of the hostages, where they are being held and who is holding them,” the Post notes.
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