Joe Biden, 17 other world leaders call for release of hostages held by Hamas

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and the leaders of 17 other countries called Thursday for the release of hostages held by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

In a joint statement, the leaders said the fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza are protected under international law.

"We strongly support the ongoing mediation efforts in order to bring our people home," the statement said. "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."

The statement was issued by Biden and the leaders of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom. The hostages include citizens of each country.

More than 130 hostages, including five Americans, are believed to be in Hamas captivity in Gaza since the start of its war with Israel last fall. The war was ignited by the militant group's assault on Israeli communities Oct. 7 that killed almost 1,200 people.

More than 100 hostages were released last year.

The Biden administration has for months worked to secure a temporary cease-fire between Hamas and Israel that would allow for the release of the remaining hostages, but progress has stalled. Hamas has rejected a deal that is on the table, and negotiations remain deadlocked.

In their statement, the world leaders emphasized that the deal would bring an immediate and prolonged cease-fire in Gaza that would facilitate a surge of additional humanitarian assistance to be delivered throughout Gaza. Gazans would be able to return to their homes and their lands with preparations beforehand to ensure shelter and humanitarian provisions, the statement said.

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said releasing the hostages is “the road map to the end of the crisis.” The fate of the deal rests with “one guy,” Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, who has refused to accept it, the official said.

In other developments, Hamas released a video Wednesday purporting to show one of the remaining American hostages: 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin. The short, undated video showed Goldberg-Polin missing a lower arm but otherwise apparently healthy.

Also Wednesday, Biden met at the White House with Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old U.S. citizen who was among the first group of hostages Hamas released from Gaza during a truce in November.

Contributing: Joey Garrison

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @mcollinsNEWS.

More: Israelis ask if world has forgotten their hostages six months after the trauma of Oct. 7

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden and 17 world leaders call for release of hostages held by Hamas