A 3-year-old American citizen whose parents were killed by Hamas when the militant group attacked Israel on Oct. 7 is believed to be among the hostages still held in Gaza, President Joe Biden told Qatar’s leader on Sunday.
Biden and Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani spoke about recent developments amid Israel’s blistering assault on the besieged enclave, the White House said in a news release, including the “urgent” ongoing effort to secure the hostages’ release.
During the conversation, the president thanked the sheikh for Qatar’s role in mediating negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Biden also “condemned unequivocally the holding of hostages by Hamas, including many young children, one of whom is a 3-year-old American citizen toddler,” the White House said. The child’s identity was not immediately released.
Both men “agreed that all hostages must be released without further delay.”
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had earlier told ABC News that the U.S. remains “actively engaged” in negotiations. Around 239 people are still believed to be held by Hamas, but it remains unclear how many of them are alive. Sullivan said that nine American citizens, and one “legal permanent resident—a green card holder,” were still missing.
The hostage diplomacy has thus far been complicated by the fact that Hamas has not yet produced a list of the hostages it is holding, nor one of those it might be willing to free in any potential deal, two U.S. officials told CBS News on Sunday. Another sticking point will be whether Israel will entertain Hamas’ request to swap Palestinian detainees being held in Israel for the hostages.
One official told the network that Brett McGurk, a diplomat serving as coordinator to the National Security Council’s efforts in the Middle East, is expected to tour the region this week, making stops in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
As of Sunday, Hamas had released just four of its Oct. 7 hostages, including two American citizens, mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan. After their exit from Gaza, Biden said that Israel had agreed to a brief pause in the conflict to secure their release. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously insisted that there would be “no ceasefire” without the hostages’ release.
The remaining American hostages have not been formally named, but family members confirmed their identities to The Daily Beast and other outlets. Among them are Sagui Dekel-Chen, 35; Itay Chen, 19; Edan Alexander, 19; Omer Neutra, 21; Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23; Keith Siegel, 62; and Chen Goldshtein Almog, a 48-year-old mother who is believed to have been snatched alongside three of her four children, Agam, 17, Gal, 11, and Tal, 9.