update deskIsrael at War

Biden meets family members of American Hamas hostages

The meeting comes after the relatives were reportedly not invited to Monday's White House Chanukah reception.

U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

U.S. President Joe Biden met on Wednesday with family members of U.S. citizens held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, after the family members were not invited to Monday’s Chanukah reception at the White House.

Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, and Jon Finer, principal deputy national security advisor, were also part of the meeting, according to the White House.

The White House said that the family members participating in person were Yael and Adi Alexander, Ruby and Roy Chen, Ronen and Orna Neutra, Jonathan Dekel-Chen, Gillian Kaye, Liz Naftali, and Aviva, Elan, Shir and Hanna Siegel.

Jon Polin, Rachel Goldberg and Iris Haggai called into the meeting, per the White House.

The meeting marks Biden’s first in-person meeting at the White House with hostages’ families, a U.S. official told the Associated Press. Biden previously met with hostages’ relatives during a brief wartime visit to Israel on Oct. 18.

Israelis and families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, hold torches as they towards the Israeli parliament, on the fifth night of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, as they call for the release of the hostages. Dec. 12, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

CNN reported that the White House did not respond to a request by several family members to attend the Chanukah reception. They were not included among the hundreds of guests invited to the holiday function.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment, CNN reported. The public relations firm that represents the families declined to comment to USA Today.

Biden expressed support for Israel in remarks at the Chanukah reception, saying, “The warmth and connection I feel with the Jewish community cannot be disputed. I got into trouble and criticism when I said a few years ago that you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I am a Zionist.”

The U.S. president also claimed that he loves Netanyahu but doesn’t agree “with a damn thing” the Israeli prime minister says.

Speaking of the hostages, Biden said “I’m not going to stop until we get every one of them home.”

Senior White House officials met on Dec. 6 with Cochav Elkayam-Levy, chair of Israel’s civil commission on Hamas’s crimes against women and children, per a White House readout.

Jennifer Klein, assistant to the president and director of the gender policy council, was part of the meeting, according to a White House readout.

“From the earliest days of the conflict, the Biden-Harris administration has been deeply concerned by the horrific reports of sexual violence used by Hamas against Israeli women and children as part of the Oct. 7 attacks,” the White House stated. “As President Biden has again underscored, the world cannot look away from the accounts by survivors and witnesses detailing the brutality of that day.”

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