Biden, 17 World Leaders Demand Hamas Release Hostages


By Patsy Widakuswara

U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders of 17 other countries with citizens believed or known to be held by Hamas are demanding the militant group accept a proposed cease-fire deal with Israel and release the hostages immediately. 

The deal offered 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 said Thursday in a statement released by the White House

“Gazans would be able to return to their homes and their lands with preparations beforehand to ensure shelter and humanitarian provisions,” the statement said. 

In addition to the United States, the 17 countries are Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. 

Hamas has rejected a proposed deal that would bring a cease-fire immediately to Gaza in return for the release of women, wounded, elderly and sick hostages, a senior Biden administration official told reporters in a briefing Thursday. However, he said there are signals from the group that suggest they are still considering the offer. 

Various reports suggest Hamas is demanding a complete cease-fire, the full retreat of Israel Defense Forces troops from Gaza, an increase in humanitarian aid, and the full return of displaced Gazans to the north. The group maintains that Israel is not allowing Gazans to go home in an unrestricted way as the IDF has not pulled back from central Gaza. 

The official said the deal being offered to Hamas allows the “unrestricted return” of Gazans to the northern part of the Palestinian enclave and includes provisions for a United Nations mission to ensure shelter and other assistance “over the first weeks of the cease-fire” for the population returning north. 

The statement follows the release by Hamas of a video showing Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin on Wednesday. The video appears to be the first proof that the 24-year-old survived a severe injury during his capture on October 7 from the Nova music festival, during the Hamas attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 people.

The U.S.-designated terrorist group took about 250 others hostage, some of whom were released during a brief truce in November. Israel’s military response in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 people, mostly civilians, and has increased tensions in the Middle East.

Video filmed on October 7 of Goldberg-Polin being taken hostage showed his left hand blown off, likely by a grenade. The video that Hamas released on Wednesday is undated and shows him with part of his left arm missing. 

Biden and the leaders said Thursday they strongly support the ongoing mediation efforts. “Let us end this crisis so that collectively we can focus our efforts on bringing peace and stability to the region,” they said. 

The senior administration official places the blame for the failure of negotiations on Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. The official said Sinwar is “ultimately the decision maker” on whether Hamas accepts the deal. 

The official declined to confirm reports that Sinwar recently emerged briefly from the Hamas-dug tunnels to meet with his militants above ground. 

“Justice will come for Sinwar,” he said.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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