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Biden thanks Qatar, Israel after 2 American hostages freed by Hamas

Hamas's armed wing, al-Qassam Brigades, earlier announced the release of the two hostages "for humanitarian reasons" following mediation by Qatar. Israeli sources also confirmed their release.

October 21, 2023 at 9:22 am

US President Joe Biden thanked the Qatari and Israeli governments “for their partnership” in securing the release of two Americans who were held hostage in the Gaza Strip by Hamas, vowing to ensure all detainees are released, Anadolu Agency reports.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Hamas’s armed wing, al-Qassam Brigades, earlier announced the release of the two hostages “for humanitarian reasons” following mediation by Qatar. Israeli sources also confirmed their release.

During a telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier Friday, Biden “discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas – including U.S. citizens –and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden and Netanyahu also discussed efforts to begin humanitarian aid deliveries to besieged Gaza.

READ: Qatar official: Release of US hostages from Gaza after ‘days of continuous communication’

Addressing reporters at the White House, Biden said an initial tranche of direly needed humanitarian aid is set to enter the besieged Gaza Strip within 48 hours.

The president said he secured agreements from Israel and Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing, but said the roadway in to the coastal enclave had to be repaved before the deliveries could move forward, because they were “in very bad shape.”

The comments come about a week after the Rafah border crossing was effectively shuttered amid Israeli shelling. The crossing connects Gaza with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. It is one of three posts connecting Gaza with the outside world. The other two connect Gaza with Israel.

All have been shuttered following Israel’s operation against Hamas in retaliation for a shocking Oct. 7 attack that included a land, sea and air infiltration from Gaza in which over 1,400 people were killed.

Hamas said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and increased settler violence against Palestinians.

In addition to launching a sweeping bombardment campaign ahead of an expected ground invasion, Israel ordered a “full siege” of Gaza that has led to electricity supplies being severed as water, food, fuel and medical supplies run out.

Gaza’s Health Ministry reported Friday that 4,100 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s ongoing bombing campaign, including 1,524 children, 1,000 women and 120 elderly.

In a news conference at the State Department, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the two Americans who were released “are now safely in the hands of Israeli authorities,” and a team from the US Embassy will soon meet them.

“But there are still 10 additional Americans who remain unaccounted for in this conflict. We know that some of them are being held hostage by Hamas, along with an estimated 200 other hostages held in Gaza,” he said.

“Every single one of them should be released. The president has made clear that he will do everything possible to secure the release of every hostage,” he added.

READ: Palestinian resistance release 2 hostages