Biden and 17 other world leaders issue call for Hamas to release remaining hostages in Gaza

President Biden and 17 other world leaders issued a statement Thursday calling on Hamas to release the remaining hostages taken during the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, arguing that doing so would bring about a prolonged cease-fire in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

“We call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza now for over 200 days. They include our own citizens,” the leaders wrote. “The fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, who are protected under international law, is of international concern.”

“We emphasize that the deal on the table to release the hostages would bring an immediate and prolonged ceasefire in Gaza, that would facilitate a surge of additional necessary humanitarian assistance to be delivered throughout Gaza, and lead to the credible end of hostilities,” they continued. “Gazans would be able to return to their homes and their lands with preparations beforehand to ensure shelter and humanitarian provisions.”

The statement was signed by Biden, as well as the leaders of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom. The countries all have citizens who are being held or are missing in Gaza following Hamas’s attacks in Israel last October, a senior administration official said.

“We strongly support the ongoing mediation efforts in order to bring our people home,” the leaders said in the statement. “We reiterate our call on Hamas to release the hostages, and let us end this crisis so that collectively we can focus our efforts on bringing peace and stability to the region.”

A senior administration official on a call with reporters said the collection of leaders were “quite extraordinary,” noting an earlier effort to get buy-in on a similar statement was unsuccessful.

The statement was in the works for a couple of weeks, the official said, but it was issued a day after Hamas released a video showing Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an Israeli American man who was among those taken by the militant group during the surprise attack that sparked the war last fall. It was not clear when the video was made.

The senior administration official said the Biden administration is in “regular contact” with Goldberg-Polin’s family and that getting hostages out is a “daily, hourly focus of ours.”

Biden met Wednesday at the White House with Abigail Mor Edan, 4, who was taken hostage and was released in November along with several others.

The White House has for weeks been advocating for a cease-fire in Gaza that would allow for the release of hostages still being held in the region and would let additional humanitarian aid surge into the area.

Hamas said it will not release the remaining hostages unless Israel ends the war, which has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians, sparking a wave of protests on U.S. college campuses in recent days.

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