Getting hostages back in the middle of a war is a messy business. In the case of the Israel-Hamas war, working to secure the release of hostages taken during the murderous and savage rampage of the terrorists on October 7 has proven nearly impossible. What makes negotiations even more tricky is that not all of those abducted were Israeli. Seven men and one woman are Americans and are still being held by Hamas terrorists. President Joe Biden met with the families of the American hostages on Wednesday, December 13, to commiserate and reassure them the US is doing everything it can.
Eight American Hostages Remain in Captivity
A seven-day pause in the fighting in Gaza saw 105 people held by Hamas, including four Americans (three women and one four-year-old girl) released. The fate of the remaining eight Americans is unknown since Hamas will not allow the International Red Cross representatives access to the hostages. After the meeting with the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Fox News reported:
“Family members of the eight American hostages who remain in Hamas captivity in Gaza spoke to the press after meeting with President Biden on Wednesday … They told reporters that they were reassured that Biden’s administration was doing everything within its power to secure the release of their family members. While the families decided to keep the specifics of their conversation private, they encouraged the media and Americans to speak about their family members as people and not just hostages.”
During a Fox News interview by Bret Baier with eight of the family members who met with the president in the White House, Ruby Chen held up an hourglass symbolic of the urgency for getting the abductees returned. Chen’s son, Itay, had served as an Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldier and is among the American hostages. As sand relentlessly flows from the top to the bottom of the sand clock glass bulbs, the message is that time is running out. Chen’s plea was poignant and compelling.
Following the president’s two-hour conversation with the family members, Biden posted on X: “I just sat down with the loved ones of Americans taken hostage by Hamas to hear their stories. I reassured them that I will continue doing everything possible to secure the release of their family members. And that we will not give up hope.” Biden’s wish for a return of the captured Americans belies a real, complex, and dynamic conundrum.
The remaining American captives will most likely be the last to be released. They are the most valuable currency Hamas has to leverage the US to persuade Israel to not go after Hamas aggressively. An added complication is the accounts of sexual brutality and savagery of the Hamas captors against the young women by those who have been released could make the terrorists reluctant to release more women. That would reinforce the understanding by the international press of the conditions the hostages are enduring. What will make Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist militias more willing to give up hostages is the death and destruction the IDF is bringing to the fight.
Clearly, the continuous bombardment by IDF artillery and air attacks has been devastating for Hamas. The combat losses were no doubt motivation for the earlier lull in fighting. Getting more hostages back will require Hamas and the other Palestinian militias to realize there is no good outcome for them. If Hamas continues to fight back, they will be destroyed. Yet, the destruction of Hamas is the objective of the Israeli government. Strong, resolute moral and material backing and leadership from the US is essential for maintaining international support. Unfortunately, President Biden gave an indication of going wobbly on his standing with Israel.
Biden’s Words of Warning to Israel Were Not Accurate
Addressing the international community’s view of Israel’s war with Hamas, “President Joe Biden on Tuesday (December 12) warned that Israel was losing international support because of its ‘indiscriminate bombing’ of Gaza, speaking out in unusually strong language just hours before the United Nations demanded a humanitarian cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war,” Associated Press correspondents Colleen Long and Aamer Madhani, reported. Not known for his precision in using the English language, nonetheless, Biden’s careless and inaccurate use of the phrase “indiscriminate bombing” raises images of World War II German carpet bombing of London and US B-52s dropping hundreds of tons of high-explosive ordinance on North Vietnamese and Viet Cong jungle encampments. That is not what is happening in Gaza.
The IDF uses accurate, precision-guided munitions against Hamas terrorist strongholds. Additionally, Israel gives prior warning to non-combatants when an IDF attack is imminent. That Palestinian civilians are being used as shields speaks to the savagery of Hamas and Palestinian militias, not to the accuracy of the Israeli artillery and air assaults. But Biden’s inartful statements do speak encouragement to the Hamas murderers that, if they can hold out by using the hostages – particularly the Americas – as pawns, the terrorists can exact concessions from Israel. When the Iran-backed Hamas and other Palestinian militia terrorists acknowledge continuing the fight means assured annihilation, there will be more enthusiasm for releasing hostages – all of them.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.