President Biden sent a message Tuesday to families of hostages abducted from Israel on Oct. 7: “Hang in there. We’re coming.”
The Israeli military has said that 239 people who were taken from Israel during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 terrorist attack remain hostages, and American officials say Israel counts nine Americans among them. Hamas has said that other groups are holding some of the hostages, but it is not clear how many.
Mr. Biden has said that freeing the hostages is a top priority, and administration officials have said the United States is actively engaged in indirect negotiations involving Israel, Qatar and Hamas to secure their release.
“I’ve been talking to the people involved every single day,” Mr. Biden said during an event in the South Court Auditorium of the White House on Tuesday. “I believe it’s going to happen, but I don’t want to get into any detail.”
Asked if he had a message for the hostages and their families, he said, “Hang in there. We’re coming.”
As he spoke, thousands of people were rallying in a March for Israel on the National Mall in Washington that was organized in support of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, and others gathered near the White House carrying posters of children who were kidnapped in the Oct. 7 attack.
Brett McGurk, Mr. Biden’s senior Middle East adviser, was heading to the Middle East after stopping in Belgium on Tuesday, the White House said, to brief NATO allies and E.U. partners and coordinate efforts to secure the release of the hostages as well as to expand humanitarian aid to Gaza and increase economic pressure on Hamas and other terrorist groups. His next stops will include Israel, the West Bank, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Jordan, the White House said.
Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said last weekend that the status of the hostages was unclear.
“We know the number of missing and that’s the number the Israelis have given but we don’t know how many of those are still alive,” Mr. Sullivan told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
“As far as the Americans are concerned, there are nine missing American citizens” and one permanent U.S. resident, he said. He added, “That’s the number that we are working with, that’s the number we are trying to ensure the safe return of,” he said.
The Israeli government has said the hostages include 20 children and 10 to 20 people over the age of 60. One of the young hostages, according to the White House, is a 3-year-old American.
The news of the 3-year-old came in a White House readout of a call about the Israel-Hamas war between Mr. Biden and Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar on Sunday. In the call, according to the readout, the president “condemned unequivocally the holding of hostages by Hamas, including many young children, one of whom is a 3-year old American citizen toddler, whose parents were killed by Hamas on Oct. 7.”